Friday, 26 February 2010

This Must Be the Place

Towards the end of his performance of the Talking Heads' classic, This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) - during the song's extended coda/outro, to be precise - lead singer David Byrne breaks into an awkward, spontaneous piece of physical performance, in which he woos, seduces, dances with and, eventually, romances the prop lamp-stand that illuminates both singer and musicians. The lamp itself is an obvious symbol - a reminder of "home", as yearned for in the song's lyrics - as well as the primary lighting source for this particular performance; the perfect blending of content and form?

In taking this object and embracing it, physically - creating a performance or a role-play that one might generally expect to see acted out by two human beings - Byrne is illustrating, in a fairly imaginative fashion, the general role that inanimate objects (or indeed, consumer technology) play in satisfying the greater absence or nostalgia felt when disconnected from other human beings, or - in this particular instance - the home itself.

Home - is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home - she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place
I can't tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time
Before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I'll be

The image of Byrne embracing this object, finding a certain physical and emotional expression through the personification of it, for me works on the same level as the image of Jacques Bonnaffé cradling the static of hotel room television set in Jean-Luc Godard's masterpiece Prénom Carmen (First Name: Carmen, 1983). In that particular film, the character's sense of loss, loneliness and the inability to express his broken-heartedness to the titular Carmen (Maruschka Detmers) is expressed through the substitution of the everyday, artificial "symbol" of the television; the invention, intended - supposedly - to bring us together.

In Stop Making Sense (1984), this performance, in which the lamp-stand is used to re-live - or fulfil the need for - a possible physical encounter, is likewise loaded with a particular loneliness or desperation; albeit, a desperation filtered through Byrne's characteristic childlike whimsy. This single moment in a film filled with amazing moments is further proof - as if it were needed - that Stop Making Sense is possibly the greatest film ever made.

Stop Making Sense directed by Jonathan Demme, 1984: