Jonathan Demme brings a refreshing twist to the creaky concert-film formula with this intimate documentary, just as he did 15 years ago with the Talking Heads movie STOP MAKING SENSE. British singer Robyn Hitchcock's 1996 performance in a shop window on New
York's grubby 14th Street is as quirky as the man himself. A founding member of seminal New Wave band the Soft Boys, Hitchcock's witty, surreal lyrics and catchy pop tunes have made him a cult favorite. Standing on a sparse stage, he performs 15 songs in front of a small, appreciative audience
that's heard but never shown. The action is provided by street traffic behind Hitchcock: Some passers-by peer in briefly, others stand watching, but few take notice -- Hitchcock's career in a nutshell. Demme varies the mood by lowering a curtain over the window or covering it with colored panels,
and his seamless cuts allow the illusion of a single take, even though filming took place over the course of two days and nights. Hitchcock, accompanied occasionally by violinist Deni Bonet and guitarist Tim Keegan, introduces his songs with comic streams of consciousness on subjects ranging from
"pure beef" and good posture to minotaurs and giant astronauts, but his eccentricity is balanced by a serious, angry side. Now 45, his recent songs deal with death and loss, subject matter that contrasts sharply with his bright Beatles/Byrds-inspired melodies. He introduces the bouncy "Yip Song"
as "the most upbeat song I've ever written -- it's about [my father's] death from cancer." Both Hitchcock and Demme are preaching to the converted: Hitchcock has never had a Top 40 hit, and non-fans may wonder what the fuss is about. But the film affords an unusually personal look at a brilliant
songwriter, shown at his most engaging by a director who quietly reanimates a moribund genre.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Jonathan Demme brings a refreshing twist to the creaky concert-film formula with this intimate documentary, just as he did 15 years ago with the Talking Heads movie STOP MAKING SENSE. British singer Robyn Hitchcock's 1996 performance in a shop window on Ne… (more)