Combustible Celluloid
With: David Byrne, Chris Giarmo, Tendayi Kuumba, Karl Mansfield, Angie Swan, Bobby Wooten III, Mauro Refosco, Tim Keiper, Gustavo Di Dalva, Jacquelene Acevedo, Daniel Freedman, Stephane San Juan
Written by: David Byrne
Directed by: Spike Lee
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 105
Date: 10/17/2020

David Byrne's American Utopia (2020)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Twice in a Lifetime

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Thirty-six years ago, David Byrne and the band Talking Heads released perhaps the greatest concert movie of all time, Stop Making Sense. Now, working with director Spike Lee, he has done it again. David Byrne's American Utopia is another of a handful of essential pandemic movies, providing not only a blast of joy and life and soul-filling music, but also invigorating playing, moving, and dancing by its twelve dazzlingly multi-cultural performers. It's based on Byrne's Broadway show, and with Lee's precision choice of angles and rhythms (and cinematography by Ellen Kuras), the director has turned it into a fluid, innovative work of cinema. The twenty-two songs (including an end-credits jam) include the stirring, new work "Here," which opens the movie, plus a wide-ranging selection of classic Talking Heads tunes, and even some non-Byrne songs. But they all flow together into 105 minutes of, yes, utopian bliss. This is what America should be like.

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