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    OPINION | Could NOLA be more than four years of fun?

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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‘Stop Making Sense’: A24 refreshes classic concert film

A24’s re-release of “Stop Making Sense” revitalizes the classic Talking Heads live performance film, already known by many as the greatest concert film of all time. (Shivani Bondada)

In one word, Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” is a trip. In more words, the film is eclectic, energetic, engaging and much more. “Stop Making Senseis a re-release film of the live performance of the band Talking Heads at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater, directed by Jonathan Demme and originally released in 1984. No matter whether you are a Talking Heads superfan or haven’t heard of them until now, it is quickly apparent why “Stop Making Sense” has often been called the greatest concert film of all time. Newly restored in 4K by A24, the film has never looked or sounded so beautiful. 

“Stop Making Sense” begins with David Byrne, the lead singer of Talking Heads, walking onto a barren stage with just a cassette player and a guitar and singing one of the band’s most well-known songs, “Psycho Killer.” The show begins calmly, but the pace picks up significantly with each subsequent song. Backup singers appear, extra stages are constructed and drums and a synthesizer are added until the full ensemble and their respective instruments are onstage. Byrne, who begins the show standing awkwardly center-stage, also warms up, at points falling on the ground, running around stage or dancing spastically. 

The film was shot over four nights of live performances, although you would never know it by its cohesiveness; I thought the occasional costume changes were just another aspect of the film’s eccentricity. The audience is sucked into the narrative of the concert by the dynamic camera work, which seems to respond to the music itself. At times it is flashy, rapid and close-up, and at other times, controlled and wide enough to show the whole stage. 

The movie was one of absolute energy and pure fun. The charisma and stage presence of Talking Heads was unmatched, and just when you think it can’t get any more exciting or funky, the next song proves you wrong. 

The range of the band is impressive. Their songs span from the calm, somewhat ominous — and somewhat sarcastic — “Heaven,” to the synthesizer-heavy, 80’s funk “Girlfriend is Better,” to the remake of Al Green’s R&B “Take Me to The River.” They even performed the psychedelic, head-in-the-clouds “Genius of Love,” a song from the Tom-Tom Club, a side project of the band’s singer Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz. 

The band needs no special effects to make up for a lack of musical talent: they have it all. The special lighting introduced about halfway through the show elevates the performance to the next level.  Whether it be alternating blue and red screens behind the band flashing random words or lights illuminating the members of the band from below, the effect is one that doesn’t make sense, but doesn’t need to. This is something Talking Heads entreats the audience to accept from the very beginning.

The band’s music, which fuses a wide range of genres, is not the only progressive aspect of its existence. It is notable that for a band of the mid-80s, it was composed of both Black and white members and men and women at a time when this kind of integration was uncommon. But for a band clearly influenced by soul and R&B, it seems only appropriate. 

The day-one fans of “Stop Making Sense” were out in full force when I saw the film. The theater had an appreciable number of middle-aged attendees who were eager to dance carefree in the aisles and clap after each song. I could tell which songs were audience favorites by the force of the foot tapping I felt below and head bobbing I saw ahead.  

“Stop Making Sense” is a film worth seeing, whether or not you’re a fan of Talking Heads. The joy of their performance is infectious and their authenticity is compelling. This film is for anyone and everyone looking to step outside the box of making sense, even if only for 88 minutes.

“Stop Making Sense” is playing in local theaters and can be streamed on Amazon Prime or the Criterion Channel. 

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