Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stop Making Sense

Jonathan Demme, 1984 (9.2*)
I guess it helps to be a fan of the rock band Talking Heads to really enjoy this concert documentary, but for any fan of concert filmmaking, this will also be a treat. There have been other good concert films, like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, documenting The Band’s last concert, but for me this one went a little more over the top.

When I saw this in the theater, there were people dancing in the aisles, and the crowd was a huge range of ages. I was already a fan of the band, so for me it was an unexpected treat that I felt like I was also at this concert at the Pantages Theater in L.A., shot over three nights.

The band had just been a more intellectual punk rock band than most, led by the cerebral lead singer-songwriter David Byrne, known as much for his out-of-sync gyrations as much as songs. Then they added two former members of the Funkadelic-Parliament funk bands, Bernie Worrell (keyboards) and Alex Weir (guitar, vocals) and suddenly discovered rhythm, notably from the James Brown school of funk grooves. This suddenly rejuvenated the band and it’s obvious in this concert; they’re now a fusion of musical influences working together to create something unique. My own favorite here is near the end, “Cross-Eyed and Painless”, and I can’t imagine it without the P-funk connection. Of course there’s the hits, “Burning Down the House” and “Psycho Killer”, but just as good are “This Must Be the Place” and “I Get Wild/Wild Gravity”.

Ironically, Byrne is now best known for wearing the big suit around this era. On a live tv interview (Letterman?), Byrne said "a friend told me 'onstage, you're bigger than life', so I said 'oh, then I need a really big suit'"

If you’re just interested in good rock concert films as well, this is one of the best ever (maybe the best) - along with The Police “Synchronicity Concert” (a live concert, unedited, from the Omni in Atlanta, Ga), and the all-time classic, Woodstock (1970) which did it’s best to record both highlights of three days of concerts and also document the event itself. For these reasons, it will likely forever remain the ultimate rock concert film.

Demme is best known for directing the Oscar®-winning best picture The Silence of the Lambs (1991), for which he also won a directing Oscar®. Demme is currently the 78th ranked director on our top ranked 1000 films compendium of all polls, with 4 titles in the top 1000, with Silence of the Lambs his top-ranked at #47 all-time.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition


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Artist, photographer, composer, author, blogger, metaphysician, herbalist

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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