David Byrne has written a eulogy for filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who died yesterday (April 26) at the age of 73. Besides directing films like Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, Demme also helmed a series of influential concert films, principle amongst them 1984’s seminal Talking Heads concert Stop Making Sense.
Talking Heads frontman Byrne met Demme during the 1980s while touring the show that would eventually become Stop Making Sense. “I loved his films Melvin and Howard and Citizens Band (AKA Handle With Care),” Byrne writes. “From those movies alone, one could sense his love of ordinary people. That love surfaces and is manifest over and over throughout his career.”
Byrne goes on to write about how Demme would reshoot parts of the big budget studio film Swingshift during the day and work with the band on the lower budget Stop Making Sense during the evening.
He also describes how Demme saw the latter as a “character driven” film: “Jonathan’s skill was to see the show almost as a theatrical ensemble piece, in which the characters and their quirks would be introduced to the audience, and you’d get to know the band as people, each with their distinct personalities. They became your friends, in a sense. I was too focused on the music, the staging and the lighting to see how important his focus on character was – it made the movies something different and special.”
Byrne and Demme would later work together on a number of projects, with the filmmaker helping Byrne while he was developing his own film True Stories and with the musician contributing to the soundtracks of Something Wild and Married to the Mob as well as an unfinished documentary.
“The fiction films, the music films and the docs are all filled with so much passion and love,” Byrne writes. “He often turned what would be a genre film into a very personal expression. His view of the world was open, warm, animated and energetic.”