The Oriental theatre was filled to the brim late on Saturday night for an awesome yearly tradition at the Milwaukee Film Festival. Everyone there was psyched beyond belief to watch David Byrne tear it up on the big screen in the classic concert movie Stop Making Sense. Originally made in 1984, Stop Making Sense is widely known as one of the greatest concert films of all time. Performed by classic new wave band The Talking Heads, the film involves their band performing some of their timeless hits, such as “Psycho Killer”, “Burning Down the House” and “Once in a Lifetime”. Ever since its release, it has been widely acclaimed as a shining example of the concert documentary genre. The film was considered to be very innovative in the way it was shot, and the way the music was recorded.
The film opens on David Byrne coming out on stage by himself on a blank stage, with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a boombox. He plays the boombox and starts doing an acoustic version of “Psycho Killer”. Immediately the whole crowd starts singing along and getting really into it. With each successive song, the other band members come on stage with Byrne one by one for the performance. As the show goes on, more and more people in the audience at the Oriental have stood up to start dancing. Then, “Burning Down the House” came on and completely blew the doors open at the theatre. The entire audience (including this excited writer) was up and dancing their asses off. From that point on, the whole crowd was having tons of fun; they were doing conga lines, mimicking all of Byrne’s dance moves, and singing along to all the words. Even the head of the film festival was there having the time of his life. It was absolutely the most fun I’ve had at the movie theatre.
Aside from the awesome experience, this is really an excellently done film. All of the shots are beautiful; it really gives you a full immersion into the concert experience. The Talking Heads, particularly David Byrne, put forth one of the most incredible live performances I’ve ever seen. It was 90 minutes of pure, unadulterated energy. Byrne is singing, playing guitar, and dancing around the stage throughout the entire show. He makes it totally evident that he is the lifeblood of the band, and a lot of the reason that this show is so amazing. One of the most fascinating parts of the show is the iconic suit that he wears in the show. It very subtly gets bigger and bigger on him, until eventually he comes on stage wearing a giant suit. It’s just the kind of quirky coolness that makes the show so much fun. The entire band performs excellently, and helps Byrne create an awesome mood and vibe to show by dancing along with him and having just as much fun as the crowd. The Talking Heads created an incredibly enjoyable atmosphere that cemented this film as one of the best concert movies of all time.
This absolutely has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences and traditions of the whole film festival. Only in Milwaukee will you see something so fun and cool. This is up there with the Rocky Horror Picture Show as one of the most interesting movie theatre experiences you will ever have. I highly recommend you mark your calendars for next year’s festival, because this is an experience that you certainly will not want to miss at the film festival.