Stop Making Sense (1984)

Stop Making Sense (1984), directed by Jonathan Demme.

Recently a friend introduced me to "reaction videos", specifically that type where younger people give -- usually appreciative -- first time listens to the music of older generations. Watching another person's pleasure at discovering old tunes is infectious good fun and never fails to cheer me up.

Partly this is flattery of the Boomer audience and I would not blame a youtube creator from adding a little performance art to their programs; people can be sincere about what they are selling. Still, you can detect unfeigned pleasure and these are the best reactions.

(An aside: Not to introduce a depressing aspect, but when you get older you see the books, music and movies of your youth slipping into darkness. It could not be otherwise; time doesn't stop. Seeing old loved art appreciated anew is an unexpected source of joy, a slight hesitation in the dying of the light).

I came across large-hearted Jamal's video of his first time viewing Talking Heads live "Life During Wartime", taken from this concert film:

Talking Heads - Life During Wartime | REACTION

So I had to go back and rewatch the whole movie. Seven cameras were used to assemble footage from several nights of the concert, performed in the same location.

In an ingenious approach we start with a bare stage and watch the concert assembled player by player, module by module, until everyone is present for "Burning Down the House". It's a very physical performance, culminating in the aerobics session of the above "Life During Wartime". I honestly don't know how they did it.

The roadies deserve extra thanks on this one. Dressed in black like kabuki operators they invisibly build the show and keep it going.

No audience response shots until the very end, which is fine. The cameras and our eyes are free to roam over the ensemble, studying each performer. David Byrne as front-man gets the most attention, but my eye is irresistibly drawn to bassist Tina Weymouth.

I know I'm not the only one. In an interview she said that even in the earliest days of the band, people in the audience would yell "Tina! TINA!" She cut her hair short, wore boy's clothes and tried to look unobtrusive, making things easier for Byrne, who was shy and introverted by nature. She's past that by this time.

By the way: although self-taught on guitar she did not play the bass until invited to do so for the band and had to learn on the job. That takes guts. If I could play the bass she would be my ideal: not virtuoso lines but right there in the music.

As I write this in 2021, she and Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz are still married.

Photographed by Jordan Cronenweth -- Altered States (1980), Blade Runner (1982), Cutter's Way (1981), The Nickel Ride (1974), Rolling Thunder (1977).

Music by Talking Heads. I saw them once in a nice concert hall. Just performing, nothing like the aerobic workout of this concert.

Available on Blu-ray. An edited commentary track has pleasant thoughts by the director and the group's "core 4" recorded 15 years later. I learned a lot.

Demme says they watched a lot of concert films and were most influenced by Rust Never Sleeps (1979), directed by and featuring Neil Young, and The Last Waltz (1978), about "The Band" and directed by Martin Scorsese.