Color, 1984, 88 mins.

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Starring Talking Heads / Produced by Gary Goetzman / Cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth

Format: DVD - Palm (MSRP $24.95)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) (16x9 enhanced) / Dolby Digital 5.1

The concert film against which all others should be judged, Jonathan Demme's buoyant Stop Making Sense presents the group Talking Heads at their creative and physical peak, right after the release of their remarkable Speaking in Tongues album. However, this is more than just a filmed concert; by eschewing the conventional audience reaction shots, flashy cutting, and trendy process effects shots, Demme managed to craft a sleek, powerful, and invigorating work of cinema which, along with The Song Remains the Same, Home of the Brave, and The Cure in Orange, has justifiably gone on to become a bona fide cult item in its own right.

Frontman David Byrne (who conceived the show) opens up performing the jittery "Psycho Killer" in front of a boom box on an empty stage; with each song, he's successively joined by other band members Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison, with backing by vocalists Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt and instrumental performances by Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir, and Steve Scales. Each song becomes its own unique visual/sonic experience: the eerie slideshow and lamp dance of "Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)," Byrne's wobbling oversized suit during "Girlfriend Is Better," and the head-slapping intensity of "Once in a Lifetime" are just a few of the highlights. Even when Byrne leaves the stage for the remaining members (Tom Tom Club) to do "Genius of Love," the conceptual strands of the film and live performance amazingly remain intact. By the final two numbers, even the most repressed viewers should be tapping their feet along with the audience.

Shot over a period of three days in Hollywood, this film looks like no other and should have been more influential than it has been. While MTV continues to stick to those annoying overhead swooping crane shots and tiresome, whiplash editing, Demme and company show how it should be done. Interestingly, Demme pared down this formula even more for his recent Robyn Hitchcock concert film, Storefront Hitchcock (which really needs to get a video release soon). Long unavailable outside of RCA/Columbia's long unavailable, smudgy VHS release and a pricey Japanese laserdisc import, Stop Making Sense has now finally gotten the special edition treatment on DVD. The three extra songs included on the VHS version ("Cities," "Big Business," and "I Zimbra") are added as a bonus feature, along with the reissue trailer and a hilarious, homemade video interview with Bryne interviewing himself in various wacko disguises. The anamorphic image quality is very good, especially considering the shooting conditions, with rich shadows and gorgeous colors (love those reds!). The sound has been remixed into a standard 5.1 version, a "studio" 5.1 remix (tighter and a little louder, thus more intimate), and the original surround mix. There isn't a huge difference between the three, and audiophiles will probably find the basic 5.1 mix to be the most preferable. Demme and all of the band members provide commentary, which had to be recorded separately at different studios (most likely due to extreme friction between Byrne and the rest of the group in the past few years). The commentary is generally well edited if a little choppy and cold, obviously, due to the circumstances. A great little package overall, and highly recommended.

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