Between the Teeth
1994 Directed by David Wild. Starring David Byrne, Ten Car Pileup.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Jan. 21, 1994
No one mounts a non-production like David Byrne. Spare, minimalist stage effects combine with the multi-textured pop rhythms of Byrne's music to create an irresistible vortex of sound and light. Shot in a Red Bank, New Jersey theatre on Halloween 1992, Between the Teeth is a concert film featuring Byrne performing solo, but mostly with varying groups of musicians called Ten Car Pileup. It begins in the dark as a light comes up on Byrne standing alone on stage singing a cappella into a microphone, backed only by a beatbox and his hand tapping against his thigh. Next song, an acoustic guitar is added and by the end, the strains of a violin are heard and, behold, there's another musician onstage. Then there appears a nine-man band called Pileup, a Latin-tinged collection of brass, percussion and keyboard players, as well as bass player George Porter, Jr. of the Meters. In various combinations, they perform music from the late Talking Heads repertoire, Byrne's solo work and a few newer, unrecorded Byrne compositions. The music performance is great and tremendous fun to experience, even at the second-hand distance of a movie theatre. Gradually, the camerawork becomes noticeable. Each song uses a different camera strategy. Some are filmed completely in extreme close-up, some are shot hand-held, some are shot from dollies, some are lyrical and some are frenzied. In-between each song, the film goes to black, so as to clear the palate/palette for the next presentation. The formal strategies are somewhat reminiscent of the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense tour, which began each concert with nothing but a jambox on stage and incrementally added each separate element of the show -- performers, instruments, risers and lights. By not employing all that standard concert camerawork that cuts according to syncopation, solo riffs and lighting cues, Between the Teeth becomes something apart from a routine concert film. It is exciting and interesting to watch and when you combine that with great music as done here, you have a document that will stand the test of time.