It’s a Friday night at the CFS Cinema, and David Byrne has got a tape he’d like to play us.
The Talking Heads frontman clicks on a drum machine cassette, bobs his head meekly, and strums the first chords of the band’s classic, “Psycho Killer.”
Thus opened this unusual installment in the Film Series, the Jonathan Demme-directed Talking Heads concert documentary, “Stop Making Sense,” which played to a packed house on September 7.
It was a last-gasp-of-summer night, the kind that wraps itself thick around your skin and makes you wish you left your sweatshirt at home. It was certainly no different inside the theater, but the actions of the attendees did little to give this away. Students cheered, passed around bottles of illicit substances, and, at the staccato strums of “Found a Job,” crowded the proscenium to turn the film screening into a full-on dance party.
The concert was shot in 1983 at the band’s pinnacle of creativity and success. Filmed at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood at the end of a tour by the same name, “Stop Making Sense” is actually composed of four separate shows. The film is often noted for being the first all-digital film sound recording in history, and its integrity held true during Friday’s screening.
“Seeing David Byrne 30 feet tall projected onto a screen was just amazing,” said Nick Marshall ’10. “It felt like I was actually at a Talking Heads concert, which is something you never actually get to feel [when watching a recording]. It was as close as you could get to seeing them live.”
Perhaps what keeps the film so vibrant is Byrne’s thorough preconception of the filmed performances. From fantastically goofy coordinated dancing, to an artistically evolving set, to his trademark Noh-inspired giant suit, Byrne said the band “intended to enable the viewer [of the recordings] to form their own opinion about the performance.”
The majority of the audience remained standing—or, rather, flailing spasmodically—for the rest of the film’s 88 minutes. Seniors were in ample attendance, many to commemorate the film’s last showing four years ago. However, plenty of freshmen came and shared in their ardor.
“I’d never seen it before, so to watch it in that theater, in that kind of setting, was incredible,” said Celia Hollander ’11. “It was great to experience that at the beginning of my freshman year, and a great way to start the year off in general.”
Like any good dance party, “Stop Making Sense” concluded with sweaty hugs and euphoric grins. Since then, talk has spread over campus of the unexpectedly engaging event; many have even talked about making the screening an annual tradition — and it’s no wonder. As best put by Hollander, “We were all there for the same reason: because we love Talking Heads, and we love to dance.”