Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984)
Going into this, my knowledge of Talking Heads was limited to Psycho Killer and Once in a Lifetime (and its amazing music video), both of which I like quite a bit but still never enticed me enough to venture further with the band. Watching this, I will say that I am quite impressed by the talent on display, but more on the performance side of things than in the purely musical aspect. This works quite well for Demme though, because the first 25 minutes or so of this concert are simply inherently captivating: esscalating from Byrne's lonely and anguished interpretation of Psycho Killer to the triumphant, boisterous energy of the whole troupe performing Burning Down the House. Demme does more than simply document a great show though. The choice he makes to stay on a fixed frontal shot of Byrne singing Once in a Lifetime is particularly striking after having gone for a much more conventional editing style (though I suppose I don't know how codified concert films really were at this point) he uses early on, framing Byrne as a prophet figure, some sort of a televangelist or guru trying to put you in some kind of a trance. When Demme finally cuts to another shot - a side view of the scene - its to show you the backup dancers in a position that evokes exactly that.
I don't know that I'm as enthusiastic about the film as a whole than most people seem to be though. Outside of that opening crescendo and Once in a Lifetime, there are definite lulls in the performance that Demme doesn't manage to make that interesting, aside from a more quiet song (I forget which, I believe it comes just before Once in a Lifetime) in which his camera really emphasizes the makeshift family that the troupe is acting as. And the show as a whole certainly has a narrative quality of it, one that is very evocative of Reagan's America. It just feels like a more edited-down version - while less true to its subject on a prosaic level - might have been more powerful ? I'm not sure, but it does in some ways feel like you had to be there for it to really be the transcendental experience that both Talking Heads and Demme are trying to achieve.