The Indie Memphis summer concert film series returns for a second season at the Levitt Shell this weekend with what is arguably the greatest of concert films, Stop Making Sense, director Jonathan Demme's 1984 collaboration with post-punk greats the Talking Heads.
Not simply a filmed concert, Stop Making Sense is a live performance orchestrated expressly for filmed treatment, with the theatrical Byrne — this is where the iconic oversized gray suit comes from — beginning onstage solo for a Buster Keaton-esque delivery of the band's "Psycho Killer." From there, other band members join in, one song at a time: first, bassist Tina Weymouth, then drummer Chris Frantz, and finally guitarist Jerry Harrison, with back-up singers, dancers,and musicians added gradually as the concert progresses and the sound builds.
Demme films with an intimacy that puts you onstage and gives you a sense of the interplay among performers, then he pulls away at times for artful, static framing. He dispenses with the usual concert-doc accoutrements: There's no interview or backstage material, no scenes of pre-concert preparation, no cutaways to adoring fans.
It's bracing not just musically and visually but for how deftly the visual and the musical elements are in sync.
Stop Making Sense leads off the series on Saturday, July 21st, with the free screening beginning at dusk at the Levitt Shell.
The following week, the full Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding concerts from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival will screen via the D.A. Pennebaker films Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey. This was the concert where Hendrix famously set his guitar on fire in something aping a sacrificial ritual and where Redding introduced white hippies to downhome soul.
The series continues on August 4th with a screening of Elvis on Tour hosted by Elvis Presley Enterprises. The film chronicles the King's 15-city, 15-night 1972 tour.
The concert film series is scheduled to continue through August, but remaining screenings have not been announced.
Stop Making Sense
Saturday, July 21st
Starts at dusk; free