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Talking Heads’ ‘Stop Making Sense’ concert movie added to National Film Registry

The Jonathan Demme-directed project is among 25 new titles to join the catalogue in 2021

By Tom Skinner

a screenshot from the trailer of Talking Heads' 'Stop Making Sense' film
Talking Heads' 'Stop Making Sense' film (1984). CREDIT: Madman Films/YouTube still

Talking Heads’ classic concert film ‘Stop Making Sense’ has been added to the National Film Registry.

Directed by Jonathan Demme (‘The Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Philadelphia’), the 1984 project documents a performance by David Byrne and co. at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, California. Per an official description, the movie “expertly captures the music’s energy, fusing cinema with performance to create something more than the sum of its parts”.

Talking Heads were out on tour in support of their fifth studio album ‘Speaking In Tongues’ (1983) at the time.

‘Stop Making Sense’ is one of the 25 new titles to join the NFR catalogue this year, with ‘Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi’ (1983) and ‘Wall: E’ (2008) also among the latest additions. You can see the full list here.

The Library of Congress adds 25 films to the registry annually, recognising aesthetically, culturally, or historically significant films that showcase “the range and diversity of American film heritage”.

Last year saw titles such as Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971), ‘Grease’ (1978), ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) and ‘Shrek’ (2001) join the list. In 2019, Prince’s 1984 concert film ‘Purple Rain’ was added to the catalogue.

In September 2020, Talking Heads frontman Byrne said his use of brownface in a promotional skit for ‘Stop Making Sense’ was a “major mistake in judgement”.

“In the piece I appear as a number of different characters interviewing myself, and some of the characters portrayed are people of colour,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that the sketch had been brought to his attention by a journalist.

“To watch myself in the various characters, including black and brown face, I acknowledge it was a major mistake in judgement that showed a lack of real understanding,” Byrne continued.

“I’d like to think I am beyond making mistakes like this, but clearly at the time I was not. Like I say at the end of our Broadway show American Utopia “I need to change too”.. and I believe I have changed since then.”