Demme set out to document Byrne's vision of the Talking Heads stage show: a minimal yet funky high-energy carnival with slide projections, guest musicians and, of course, the big suit. But the best part of the film was and still is Byrne himself. A perverse hybrid of Franz Kafka and Roxy Music's Brian Ferry, Byrne struts, frets and contorts his bone-thin frame throughout Stop Making Sense's gleeful 88 minutes of pure musical havoc. Meanwhile, the band plays an exceedingly bright blend of edgy '80s punk-pop and old-fashioned funk that builds in intensity until "Once in a Lifetime," the film's apex and one of the best pop songs ever written.
Now in its 15th anniversary rerelease, Stop Making Sense has aged well probably better than we have. In 1984 Talking Heads lampooned the Reagan-era middle-class everyman and sounded a call for play, rebellion and absurdity. Now that the everyman and many former midnight moviegoers carries a cell phone and lives in a gated community, can we even comprehend Stop Making Sense's cultural satire? We should try. The remedy to our chronic obsession with safety and security is simply to stop playing it safe. Stop obsessing about propriety and mortgage payments and choosing the right Montessori school and whether or not you'll be able to afford a Cancun vacation next year. In short, stop making sense.
Stop Making Sense opens Friday, August 20, at Landmark's Greenway Theatre, 5 Greenway Plaza. Call (713)626-0402 for showtimes.