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The A-Listers Talk About Stop Making Sense (1984)
From the couple who see a lot of movies because they have AMC A-List.
Patrick: Taylor, last night we got to see the new restoration of Stop Making Sense - the 1984 Talking Heads concert film directed by Jonathon Demme, which has been re-released by A24 on IMAX screens. The best part? We got to use our A-List! Because I check AMC just about every day (don't make fun of me, I run a movie website!), I snatched up tickets the day they were released before AMC realized that they could charge 30 bucks a seat and make a killing. We were grandfathered in when they changed it to no longer allow A-List reservations, so we got this amazing experience for free!* (*A-List math)
Taylor: Everything is better when it's free, though I think seeing this on the big screen would have been incredible either way.
Patrick: I also got to enjoy my free birthday popcorn and drink, plus we stuck around for the post-screening telecast Q&A from TIFF hosted by Spike Lee and reuniting the members of the band. An excellent free night! This was your first time seeing this film, what were your initial thoughts?
Taylor: I loved it! I truly had such a blast bobbing my head along to each song, and I practically had a smile plastered across my face the whole time. I secretly hoped people were going to start dancing so I could join in, but when that didn't happen I committed to dancing within the confines of my nice IMAX chair. David Byrne really knows how to create one hell of a show. Prior to this, I had seen American Utopia (Patrick and I actually had tickets to see it in New York but someone in the show got COVID and our performance was canceled), so I had some sort of idea of what I might be in for stylistically. Music lovers everywhere are going to kill me for saying this, but I'm seldom a "listen to a full album" person. Yeah yeah, I know great albums tell stories and whatnot, but realistically, I like a lot of different music and so my favorite songs from each artist are what I play regularly. But this show makes me rethink doing that. What a rich (visual) album. What a truly superb production. What a stellar film. I just simply LOVED it.
Patrick: There were a number of people in our screening boasting that they had seen the tour back in the day (jealous!) and Byrne and Co. (that's right, I said it!) kept talking in the Q&A about how important this "building of the band" premise was to the show's story and how Demme just filmed what they had already created. It gives it a clear beginning, middle, and end. Despite being completely without plot, you can see the story happening on stage - as well as hear it, of course.
Taylor: Something that I also loved about the Q&A is when Byrne gushes over Demme seeing it as an ensemble piece. I feel like, what is a band if not an ensemble? But because Byrne, self-admittedly, was in his "own little world," he was just so truly blown away by Demme's approach. I also think it's funny because Byrne is the brains behind this show that is so clearly a band and group-focused performance. Sometimes the best ideas are right under your own nose.
Patrick: Before this screening (my second viewing), I cracked open my copy of Rock on Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen by Fred Goodman (thanks for the Christmas present, Taylor!) and in the Stop Making Sense chapter, he writes, "What Demme saw in his imagination...was a rock concert as theater, with character, staging, and dramatic sophistication" and I think that's what Byrne is getting at when he calls it an ensemble piece. You really get to know everyone individually, their personalities, what they contribute and what their role means. Spike called it a palpable "love" on stage and I have to agree.
Taylor: Spike, who is one of our generation's greatest filmmakers but maybe one of the worst Q&A hosts? I kid, I kid...
Patrick: When you see that love on stage and then see them now, four decades later, clearly bitter and grudge-wielding - it's jarring.
Taylor: It is. Spike does his best to inject love into that theater in Toronto, but it is an extremely tense atmosphere. Lots of side-eyeing, awkward laughing, and hefty pregnant pauses all lead to them instantly standing up and sprinting in every direction as soon as they're told they can leave, (the simulcast was a little slow turning off, so we had the pleasure of seeing this cringey moment in 4K). In Stop Making Sense, they had so much passion, so much chemistry - and in the Q&A they could hardly answer questions with responses in the same universe.
Patrick: Talking Heads had a time limit, but Stop Making Sense is eternal. Are you ready for our Rapid Fire Round?
Taylor: Let's do it.
Patrick: Favorite song?
Taylor: "Psycho Killer" has a special place in my heart, I love that song so much. But during this screening, I was struck by "Once in a Lifetime" in a whole new way. I got a little choked up listening to it.
Patrick: So much for rapid fire, but you are correct. Favorite outfit?
Taylor: Big suit, little man. (Honorable mention to Tina's first outfit.)
Patrick: Also correct. Favorite moment?
Taylor: David's first wiggles.
Patrick: Wrong! The answer is: when David dances with the lamp. My honorable mention goes to any time Steve Scales is on screen. He's having a blast! Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Taylor: Just that I had a blast with you tonight, as I always do. We have a lot of fun music-related events around the corner, lots of concerts (and one more concert movie, can you guess what it is?) and this was an incredible kickoff!
Patrick: On the huge IMAX screen (did I mention that it was free?) and with the audience only shown in the film a handful of times, I felt right there along with them. And you, of course.
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