Jonathan Demme's simply conceived, beautifully wrought Storefront Hitchcock splits the difference between two of his seminal works: 1984's Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, arguably the greatest of its kind ever made (a close race with Woodstock and The Last Waltz), and Swimming To Cambodia, a mediocre Spalding Gray monologue propped up by astonishingly subtle cinematic effects. A monologist and a musician, Robyn Hitchcock connects his pristine, eccentric, acoustic folk-pop with amusingly surreal digressions that fall off into the bizarre recesses of his imagination and then snap back with sharp seriocomic insight. Recorded over two days in an abandoned New York City storefront on 14th Street, Storefront Hitchcock begins on a bare stage, with Hitchcock standing with his back to a large window as traffic passes by and curious pedestrians gawk inside. A few accessories are added to the minimalist design as the film progresses—a bald light bulb, a mirror ball, a large sculpted tomato—but Demme always keeps his cameras fixed on Hitchcock, and his clean, elegant compositions enhance the intimacy of the performance. Roughly half the set list consists of tracks from Hitchcock's 1996 solo album, Moss Elixir, but it's peppered throughout with songs from Eye, Respect, and his stint with The Egyptians. Hitchcock's concerns about organized religion, a vague beef conspiracy, and a future in which humans are extinct and computers roam the earth are more interesting than anything in Gray's three performance films, though fans are probably more likely to embrace his oddities. After the seriousness of his last three features—Silence Of The Lambs, Philadelphia, and Beloved—Demme's relaxed, ego-free direction is a reminder that the quirky humanist behind Melvin And Howard and Married To The Mob hasn't lost his touch. The warm rapport between director and subject in Storefront Hitchcock all but radiates from the screen.

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