• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Review: ‘Qu’est ce que’ Stop Making Sense?

BySam Stevens

Oct 25, 2023
This is the image of the movie poster for 'Stop Making Sense'. We can see the white suit of David Byrnes, with red lettering. This is a picture of the poster, so we can see the reflection of the street on it.

(Jonathan Demme, 1984; newly remastered and re-released)

Qu’est-ce-que c’est?

‘Stop Making Sense’, the most celebrated concert film ever, is returning to the silver screen with a brand new master and refined audio mix, courtesy of A24 (of Moonlight and Midsommar, and pretty much every movie à la mode). And, oh my sainted aunt, is it worth it.

David Byrne’s vision, stunningly realised by the late, legendary, Jonathan Demme, is indeed all that. It’s an absolute hoot from start to finish. It will win you over. So here’s a series of events, telling you what’s going to happen, in case you’re not convinced. I’d say spoilers, but nothing could spoil this for you.

A twitchy, slim, and silver-suited man walks onstage with a boombox and a guitar. He has a tape he
wants to play. And so he strums, sings, shrieks; his head juts out, eyes popping, limbs swishing, a
stringy, anxious swathe of a man spilling his guts, stumbling manically to schizophrenic drumbeats. At
one point he stares down the camera, eyes wide and wild and grinning like a Hitchcock lead, all
splayed and still strumming his guitar. But he succeeds; he makes a friend, and she joins him to play,
and add her own groove; and then he makes another friend, who also joins; and then another.

Soon, there’s a whole entourage out there. A coterie of incredible musicians are unified and
bouncing off each other, weaving amongst one another, dancing their own dances. Steve Scales is
here, and he’s absolutely loving it. Bernie Worrell of Parliament-Funkadelic is here. Lynn Mabry
and Ednah Holt are also here, and they are absolutely phenomenal, and when they hit those long
notes during ‘What a Day That Was’, it is the best thing ever. It’s so dramatically lit like the whole
theatre is hurtling at high speed through a tunnel; darkness envelops the band. And what alleviates
it, what lightens the stage at the end? A simple floor lamp. Also, one of the greatest love songs ever
penned. You gotta have one of those.

Then, of course, come ‘Once in a Lifetime’, ‘Genius of Love’ (coming right atcha’ from the Tom Tom
Club), ‘Take Me to the River’, ‘Crosseyed and Painless’. They really rack up those hits, it’s relentless. I
could say ‘Burning Down the House’, or perhaps the moment where the show’s ‘story’ truly changes:
when Jordan Cronenweth’s camera, in the midst of the fracas, finds Byrne during ‘Life During
Wartime’ and stays on him dancing, watching him loosen up, arms waving, mind free.

‘Stop Making Sense’ will make you want to perform, to get out there and do it, to find your own
group of strangers and weirdos. It is communitarian, joyful; the story of one man learning to live,
throwing off his anxious freakouts and channeling it into one grand, unifying expression of artistic
intent, creativity, collaboration, and love. And I haven’t even mentioned the big suit.

‘Stop Making Sense’ is now showing at the Cameo cinema.

Stop Making Sense: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Image courtesy of Orane Bloch.