David Byrne and Spike Lee's uplifting musical about the modern day.
David Byrne's latest album American Utopia has received a Grammy Award and its fair share of praise from the critics, but it was only a prelude to something bigger. Byrne has turned the album into a Broadway musical, and the musical into a film—a new "Spike Lee joint," as the director of Do the Right Thing and BlacKkKlansman describes his collaborative works. The result is a captivating show with inventive choreography—a sequel of sorts to the 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense that captured Talking Heads at the peak of their career and is believed to be the best example in the genre. With austere set design and costumes (a dozen musicians and dancers in the same clothes against a very neutral background), the film focuses on words and ideas: from the number of neurons in a baby's brain to voting. Byrne and Lee do not shy away from the bleak and disturbing aspects of our time: the emotional peak of the musical is a cover of Janelle Monáe's protest gospel that lists the victims of racism and police violence. However, the critical theme of American Utopia is human relationships, and its key emotion is hope: hope that connection is more important than isolation and that workdays do not come without holidays. These are the messages that we can get from Spike Lee's spectacular style, David Byrne's dance, and the golden standards of Talking Heads—no music over the past forty years has been quite as uplifting or euphoric.
Director: Spike Lee
USA, 2020. 105 min. 16+