"Director Jonathan Demme's STOP MAKING SENSE, listed by Entertainment Weekly as one of the Essential Independent Films when they produced that list years ago, has been called, by others, the greatest rock concert films of all time. Better than THE LAST WALTZ. Better than WOODSTOCK.After seeing it, not really knowing much about the quirky, catchy pop music of David Byrne and his brood, the band and the film won me over. The film starts, like the concert, with a bare stage. David Byrne walks out, alone, with his guitar and a radio. Within moments of beginning "Psycho Killer," Byrne's tripping all over the stage, falling all over himself, stumbling into the edges of the film frame. With that, he begins to show some individual, I-am-not-a-rock-star personality. When the staging does come, when the band joins in the fun, that personality expands. And when it comes time for the giant suit, this film's more than just a concert. It's become a story. The story of the band, the story in the lyrics and a commentary on how abstract visual art and obscure, obtuse music can interact.Demme never shows the audience through the film, though you can hear them, for the film is just about the band, the stage. It's not about the reaction they get.It's fascinating, and you'll find yourself a fan of Byrne's music, as a result."
Kevin O'Conner | 12/21/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is undoubtedly the Talking Heads at both their creative and commercial peaks. 'Speaking In Tongues'was their best album to date, and the live performances captured here imbue the music with a sense of unrestrained fun that was only hinted at on record.The sound quality of the DVD edition is excellent (especially the bass), as is the picture quality (colors are crisp and the contrast is excellent) - plus it's nice to finally have an edition of the video presented in widescreen.There's some interesting stuff among the extras, especially the storyboards (which can be viewed either alone, with notes, or in split screen with stills from the completed film). The David Byrne 'self-interview' is artful in its awkwardness, with one David Byrne in a number of different costumes interviewing a David Byrne wearing the big suit. There's a funky montage that works slightly better than the theatrical trailer that is also included; otherwise, they're almost interchangeable.My only complaint with this re-mastered edition is that the three songs (Cities, Big Business, and I Zimbra) that were included in the original video release have been relegated to bonus tracks, rather than integrated into the film. Not only that, but they are presented in fullscreen/pan & scan format rather than in the widescreen format of the film, and in little more than a straight transfer. The improvements in image and sound quality of the film proper are sadly lacking here. The colors and contrast are dull in comparison, as is the quality of the soundtrack.Well worth repeated viewings. Fix up them bonus tracks, and you've got a 5-star presentation..."
Trust me. TRUST ME!
C. ANZIULEWICZ | Spring Hill, WV USA | 07/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll cut to the chase: Do yourself a BIG favor and get this DVD. Even if you've never considered yourself a fan of Talking Heads, "Stop Making Sense" is worth watching and will probably give you an appreciation for band that you never had before. That's just what happened to me. Until I saw this film I was under the impression that Talking Heads was just another quirky art-punk outfit, perhaps because of their association with the early days of CBGB's in New York City. My few exposures to Talking Heads' music back in my college years (1977-1981) frankly left me scratching my head. In retrospect, however, I think the demise of this band leaves a void in the world of popular music that may never be filled. Talking Heads created some of the smartest, funkiest sounds in the first half of the 1980s, and this film shows them in their finest form. Much of the credit goes to director Jonathan Demme for focusing our attention on the band and David Byrne's wide-eyed stage presence, while tipping his hat to the audience only at the end of the concert. Occasionally Demme comes up with a shot that is so utterly sublime in its balance and power that the viewer can only whisper, "Wow." Credit also goes to Byrne for the minimalistic set design and the particularly clever touch of assembling the set (and the band, for that matter) during the first four songs. And extra-special credit must be given to some of the COOLEST backup musicians (Steve Scales, Edna Holt, Bernie Worrell, Lynn Mabry, & Alex Weir) I've ever seen onstage. "Stop Making Sense" is unarguably the best concert movie ever made. My partner Greg & I first owned this film on VHS, but the DVD is so much, MUCH better! The blacks are BLACK, the reds are SMOOTH, and the transfer is just as crisp as you please. The optional audio commentary by all four members of the band is a wonderful feature and an education about this band unto itself. We have shown this DVD to many friends of ours, and almost invariably they come away with a much deeper appreciation for Talking Heads. It's great that the four members of this band could put aside their differences long enough to collaborate on this DVD release. Now if they could just regroup for ONE MORE ALBUM ....."
Blu-ray version no better than regular DVD
Eee Tee | Brooklyn Park, MN USA | 11/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This review is primarily a comparison of the standard DVD to the blu-ray. See other reviews for more discussion of the performance itself.
First, to be clear, I love the Talking Heads of this era (and earlier) and this concert. As many have said before, Stop Making Sense is one of the best concert performances ever captured on film. Poorly captured, unfortunately.
I've owned the standard DVD for years, and have viewed it on my Oppo 970 upscaling player at least 50 times. I know (and love) the content very well, warts and all. I eagerly awaited the release on blu-ray to improve the blurry, soft, artifact-laden DVD.
Sadly, on my 106" screen (fed by a Pioneer BPD-51FD blu-ray player though an Epson 1080UB), the video on blu-ray is so similar (poor) to the DVD that I consider it a wasted purchase. What makes it even WORSE than the DVD, is that all the grain, scratches, and film defects are greatly enhanced by the sharpness of blu-ray. When a scratch comes along, it's presented in high definition, making it leap out even more than it does on DVD. The sharp detail of the defects screams out how bad the source really is. Monty Python's Life of Brian was similarly horrific on DVD, but the restoration processing used for the blu-ray transformed it astonishingly to near perfect. I had hoped for SOME similar improvements on Stop Making Sense, but this blu-ray is a dud in my opinion. I see only moments of improved detail, but so little as to be of no consequence. Some reviewers feel that this is part of the films' charm and artistic intent. I respectfully disagree - strongly. The bad video quality just looks like sloppy, inept film making. The concept, direction and performances are wonderful, but the images look like a 4th generation VHS tape. Sadly, apparently all the existing copies of the original film used to master the DVDs and blu-rays are apparently equally awful.
Audio IS improved on the blu-ray, however. Notably, audio lip-sync problems are much better than the standard DVD (particularly on 'What a Day That Was') . Yet this also helps to emphasize how bad the image quality is. Great audio combined with high-def film grain/defects make the soft, crappy images seem worse than ever by comparison.
I wish I'd never bothered to upgrade to this blu-ray, my old DVD is essentially equivalent on a good upscaling player.
Ultimately, Stop Making Sense is an essential, desert-island DVD, although poorly-filmed (picture quality-wise). I adore the content, but wish that there would be an attempt at restoration, even if some purists might object. Until then, the added resolution of blu-ray is a waste, at best. If you own this on DVD, don't bother with the blu-ray version.
saxmaster3 | York, PA United States | 05/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After getting this DVD, I watched at least part of it almost every day for the next two months. No lie.
While it is true that the cinementography is outstanding, what also keeps me coming back are the outstanding performances. I almost wish that each band member had a camera dedicated to them, cause they're all spectacular. Even the director, Jonathan Demme, laments the difficulty of balancing the members' screen time in the commentary. They all look like they are having a blast, and at times it seems more like a big party on a stage than a concert. Here's a capsule review of each:
David Byrne: The eccentric leader. He appears slightly spaced out and in his own little world at times, but then he'll flash a glance at one of his mates and you'll realize that he knows exactly what he's doing. There's a wonderful part during the bonus song "Big Business" where he walks over to each band member and stands transfixed while they play a "mini solo" for him -- he even bobs his head along with Bernie Worrell's keyboard riffs. In addition, his clinical descriptions of how he conceived the show in the commentary are fascinating.
Tina Weymouth: The sly bass player. Tina doesn't have a whole lot of screen time to herself except when she sings "Genius of Love." However, if you look for her in the background, you'll see some good stuff. The "blimp suit" that she wears in the first half of the show rocks! Tina's also quite an entertaining talker and contributes some funny moments to the commentary track. She gleefully recounts a prank the crew pulled on David, and also has a great quote about making music: "Whether your arms are sore or your fingers are bleeding, it doesn't matter. The end result is all that counts."
Chris Frantz: The good-natured "teddy bear" behind the drum kit. You can see him lip-synching along with many of the songs, and he'll belt out the occasional "alllright" into his mike. It's funny to watch his hair become increasingly drenched in sweat as the show goes on, while the perpetual grin on his face remains. Favorite commentary quote: "We thought we knew how to rock, and then these people [referring to the guest musicians] came along and...well, just look at them."
Jerry Harrison: The most stoic member of the band, Jerry contributes some nice rhythm guitar licks and is very articulate during the commentary. He briefly comes out of his shell during a "mini-solo" in the song Big Business, and it is quite amusing.
Bernie Worrell: Ex-Parliament keyboard wizard who doesn't get quite enough airtime to fully appreciate, but he's outstanding nonetheless. He's an adept visual performer, and I enjoyed his call-and-response section with David in the song "Making Flippy Floppy."
Steve Scales: The happy-go-lucky percussion player who's always trying to fire up the crowd. He has a great moment on "Take Me to the River" where he grabs the mic and starts trying to get everyone going.
Alex Weir: The EXTREMELY enthusiastic guitarist who's constantly bouncing around the stage. He almost collides with David during "Once in a Lifetime" while David's doing his "man possessed" dance.
Lynn Mabry/Edna Holt: The two sultry backup singers. They play off each other well, and have a great moment in "Slippery People" whey they mirror David's guitar strumming."