Unlike the Heads, Hitchcock is a quintessential cult artist who retired his band, the Egyptians, and now performs mostly solo. To capture his songs in sharp focus, Demme filmed the musician playing in a vacated Manhattan storefront, his back to its broad window, his small but rapt audience heard but not seen. Apart from an establishing credit sequence that descends to the streets, the 77-minute program consists of Hitchcock in medium or close shots, with occasional glimpses of passersby and onlookers in the street behind him. Simple stage lighting is augmented by use of a translucent curtain, an opaque backdrop, and a checkerboard overlay of different colored gels that periodically change the outward view. For DVD and VHS, Demme has opted for a full-frame transfer that actually makes sense in terms of sustaining this intimacy.
That simplicity, and the beautifully shot and composed color film footage, draw us deeply into Hitchcock's songs and monologues, which confirm his acerbic wit, a sharp eye for pop cultural details, and a free-floating surrealism that lends his verbal riffs an antic poetry. He's not a virtuoso by any measure, yet it's easy to hear why he's such a musician's favorite in the instinctive drama and energy of his mostly acoustic guitar work. If you've never heard Robyn Hitchcock, this stunning, minimalist feature will intrigue you. If you're already a fan, prepare to swoon. --Sam Sutherland