Talking Heads 'Stop Making Sense' redux: Clearer, better and amazing

A24 helped the band restore possibly the best concert film ever made.
Slaven Vlasic/GettyImages

Stop Making Sense took a whirlwind tour to get back to theaters. Of course, when the Talking Heads made the concert film 40 years ago, the thought was never, "I wonder what this will look like in 2023?" That the film was made at all was an accident.

The band raised all the funds to make the film and put it out under Talking Heads Pictures. But the band had no way to distribute the film so a company called Cinecom helped. But making a movie and that giving the project to a distributor is a bit like selling one's soul. The work gets out but with a price.

Cinecom eventually went out of business, however, and Palm Pictures picked up the distribution rights. But the Talking Heads had worked out a deal where they were get the rights back after a time. Once the band did get the rights back, Stop Making Sense just kind of set around collecting the proverbial dust until the band decided to try to re-release it.

The problem was that the film was nearly 40 years old, and while the project was created on film, the movie still needed revamping with better visuals and up-to-date sound. The band had a wish list of distributors and production companies they were willing to work with and A24, the company that helped make Everything Everywhere All at Once, was at the top of the list. A24 wanted to get the film as well, but they not only wanted to re-release it to streaming, they wanted to re-release it in theaters. This is just wanted to band wanted as well.

Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense is somehow a greater masterpiece now after being restored

So after some painstaking work to update the visuals and the sound, Stop Making Sense was released in theaters in September after first being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. The finished product is simply amazing.

The tour that the film was made from was 1983's Speaking in Tongues. The concept of the show is simple enough but grows with each passing song. At the onset, there is only David Byrne and his guitar and a tape machine playing a beat while Byrne sings "Psycho Killer." But with each passing song to begin the show, more members of the band and more pieces of the stage are added. The choreography is well-timed and perfect for each tune. And there are no bad songs.

But the real star of the film is Jonathan Demme. A decade later, Demme would direct such films as Philadelphia and Silence of the Lambs. He would also win an Oscar for directing. You never see Demme, of course, but he used six cameras to film to performance over four different nights of the show. The film is excellently directed, of course, but there may be no film in the history of movies that has better videography. Demme knew just where to place the cameras and just when to zoom in, or zoom out.

The person watching the movie feels as if they are actually at the performance. You will want to clap at the end of each song before catching yourself and realizing you are watching a film. But go ahead and clap, Stop Making Sense is that good.

But yes, amazingly the film looks, feels, and sounds better than most movies made now, and especially one that was originally made 40 years ago. This is must-see for any fan of music, though if you have an IMAX near you and the movie is playing in it, run and get tickets today.

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