Jonathan Demme's classic Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense is returning to Cineworld in IMAX this September. Both aficionados of the band and relative newcomers are urged to experience the new 4K restoration of a movie that defined its respective genre. Here's what you need to know.
How was Stop Making Sense made?
Fresh off his acclaimed comedy Melvin and Howard (1980), rising filmmaker Jonathan Demme turned his attention to the in-vogue group Talking Heads, fronted by David Byrne.
Demme desired to capture the pioneering new wave group in a live setting, so an initial meeting between him and the band was brokered by actor Gary Goetzman. The latter eventually became Demme's production partner on the Oscar-winning likes of The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia.
Demme later met the group face-to-face backstage at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. It was there that founding member Tina Weymouth revealed she was a fan of Demme's, having loved Melvin and Howard.
"We knew that Jonathan had a sense of humor," says Weymouth. "He was just so sensitive and quick to grasp who we were and what we were about. We didn’t want to be like every other rock band out there. We wanted to be in our own niche. We weren’t trying to compete with big, huge groups. We were trying to be ourselves."
Demme eventually realised Talking Heads on film as part of their 1983 Speaking in Tongues tour. The footage was captured at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles and broke new ground in terms of its immersion, intimacy and its dynamic understanding of live music mechanics.
"We wanted to show people how a show is put together in all its parts," Byrne explains. "In a way, it was about being completely transparent. We’re going to show you what it takes, and then we’re going to do it.
"You’re going to see all the parts being assembled; you’re going to hear for yourself what each musician adds to the sound. 'Oh, that’s what that person does.' And then everything gets put into effect together."
Little wonder that the ensuing movie won rave responses. Noted and controversial critic Pauline Kael described Stop Making Sense as, "A dose of happiness from beginning to end." The Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau called Stop Making Sense "the finest concert film I’ve ever seen."
Even to this day, the movie is widely regarded as the finest concert film ever made. Its intimate exploration of music production and the internecine dynamics between band members remains an inspiration for filmmakers the world over, from Spike Lee's very own Talking Heads concert project American Utopia to Edgar Wright's The Sparks Brothers.
What do we know about the 4K restoration?
This 4K restoration of Stop Making Sense marks the first time the movie has been revisited since 1999. The new edition was supervised by American Zoetrope’s James Mockoski and includes a completely remastered soundtrack overseen by Talking Heads guitarist and keyboardist Jerry Harrison.
"When you do something like this there is the potential to push it too far," says Harrison. "A lot of time people will get so excited about new technology that they manipulate it so it doesn’t have the classic sound it did before.
"The trick is to use technology without losing a sense of how things were done in the past, and I think that we’ve accomplished that."
The 4K restoration has already played at the 2023 Toronto Film Festival, which calls back to the movie's initial debut at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1984.
"The day of the world premiere at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, we were testing stuff and a 6.1 earthquake hit," recalls Goetzman. "I could see the stucco cracking, the chandelier was going crazy. You kind of don’t want to go back inside after that.
"But by the time the show played we were in pretty good spirits. The reviews used the earthquake as a reference: they were like, 'If you thought San Francisco rocked this afternoon…' It set us off in a good way."
What will the IMAX presentation add to the movie?
IMAX utlises a greatly expanded aspect ratio (1.90:1 versus anamorphic widescreen's 2.39:1), which fuses with a bold remastering process, dual projection and perfectly tuned surround sound.
That means every detail of the Talking Heads' celebrated concert, from the big suits to the grandstanding, crowd-pleasing hits, will look and sound sharper and more immersive than ever before, helping you rediscover a groundbreaking moment in music history.
When is Stop Making Sense screening in Cineworld?
Stop Making Sense screens at Cineworld in IMAX from September 22nd to September 24th.
Where can we book our tickets for Stop Making Sense?
Click the link below to book your tickets for Stop Making Sense.