Stop Making Sense 40th anniversary edition arrives in IMAX at TIFF

All four members joined by filmmaker Spike Lee at Q&A

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The 40th-anniversary unveiling of the Talking Heads’ legendary concert film Stop Making Sense in IMAX on Monday night during TIFF proved a couple of things.

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Jonathan Demme’s glorious movie still holds up and really makes you want to boogie while admiring Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s snake-like moves in and out of his famous fat suit during such standouts as Psycho Killer, Slippery People, Burning Down the House and Once in a Lifetime.

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And secondly, maybe filmmaker Spike Lee — unintentionally humourous, though he was — wasn’t the most objective moderator for a post-screening half-hour Q&A of the group’s four members, which was livestreamed to select IMAX theatres around the world.

Coming together for the first time in 21 years — not since their 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — the gathering of Byrne, guitarist-keyboardist Jerry Harrison, drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth — seemed more awkward than acrimonious as band fan Lee barked such questions as “Dave! Fat suit! The origin?!” (He also took questions from audience members in IMAX theatres globally.)

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For the record, Byrne, who walked away from the group in 1991 without so much as a word to his bandmates (which he said earlier this year he regretted, calling himself a “little tyrant,”) said the suit was inspired by a Japanese designer who said “in the theatre everything is bigger than life. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my suit should be bigger, too.’”

Joked Frantz: “It was really big tonight (in IMAX).”

Clearly, Lee was both a contemporary and fan of the Talking Heads in his enthusiasm, calling Stop Making Sense “the greatest concert film ever.” (I don’t disagree with him, by the way.)

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Byrne said the concert film was basically what they were doing on tour at the time, but “it seemed to have a progression to it, a story and I think it occurred to us this could maybe work as a film.”

Added Frantz of the absence of Demme, who died in 2017: “He would have been so delighted to hear it tonight. It’s so good to be here with my bandmates tonight. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a been a long time. I’m very grateful to be here tonight and watch this and enjoy it so much. Although, it’s a little steep for dancing (in the IMAX theatre), but some people managed.”

Byrne said Demme, who came to see the Talking Heads on tour repeatedly, saw it “as an ensemble film. And then you watch how they all interact with one another. I thought, ‘I’m in my own world.’ But he saw that. He saw what was going on there.”

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Added Harrison: “One of the reasons for the lasting power of the film is you see that we are having so much fun on stage.”

The group was joined by joyous backing singers Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt, guitarist Alex Weir, keyboardist Bernie Worrell and percussionist Steve Scales.

“I loved that show — it was magical,” said Weymouth. “Everything about it was so special.”


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Stop Making Sense has undergone a special 4K restoration and will have a full theatrical run releasing exclusively in IMAX on Sept. 22 and in theatres everywhere on Sept. 29.

“When I was watching this just now, I was thinking, ‘This is why we come to the movie theatres,’” said Byrne to eventual applause. “This is different than watching it on my laptop. This is really different.”

Both Byrne, who said the staging was inspired by such theatrics as the giant amps of Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps and P-Funk’s mothership coming down onto the stage, and Frantz said their favourite song of the concert film was Once in a Lifetime.

“It’s like going to church,” said Frantz. “And it’s very moving to me. It’s got a power that many other bands and songs never achieve.”

Harrison favoured both Life During Wartime and Girlfriend is Better and Weymouth refused to choose a favourite.

“C’mon Spike, that’ s like making me choose which of my children (are my favourite),” she said.

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