To capture his pop spectacle, Justin Timberlake turns to Demme

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To capture his pop spectacle, Justin Timberlake turns to Demme

TORONTO - Justin Timberlake’s desire to make a concert film could be traced directly back to when he saw Jonathan Demme’s iconic 1984 Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense.”

“There’s just no other concert film like it,” Timberlake said in an interview. “It changed the way I saw concerts from then on out.”

The film, “Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids,” hits Netflix on Wednesday, lending the streaming platform a megawatt dose of Timberlake’s fluid, seemingly effortless stardom. He has touted it as an opportunity to “Timberlake and Chill.”

With Demme’s cameras trained squarely on the singer, the film captures the wide range of Timberlake, whose silky-smooth performance is like a 21st century hybrid of Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. Both are repeatedly referenced throughout Timberlake’s performance. The setting (the MGM Grand in Las Vegas) and attire (Tom Ford tuxedoes) is pure Sinatra, while the dance moves and harmonies (“Human Nature” is covered) owe plenty to Jackson.

“It’s a concert film but it’s the most personal film I’ve made about creating music,” says Timberlake, whose 2013 “20/20 Experience” album was his first in seven years. “It was a really great time for me in my career and what was happening in my life.”

“Stop Making Sense” chronicled the steady swell of Byrne’s funk extravaganza: It begins with him on a bare stage with an acoustic guitar and builds to a teaming ensemble and Byrne in an oversized suit. But “Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids” is the full force of a pop spectacle, with giant screens, laser lights, backup dancers and a moving platform.

It’s a new groove for Demme, a filmmaker who moves between fiction films (“The Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” “Rachel Getting Married”) and performance documentaries (“Neil Young: Heart of Gold,” Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia”). And the bigger, arena-sized concert meant a larger production for him, too.

Timberlake’s Vegas shows came after 14 months of touring and more than 130 shows. For him, the movie is about the vast number of people that created the entire experience.

“When you got down to it, this tour, more than any other tour, was such a shared experience for me with the people on stage and the people off stage,” Timberlake says. “I changed the title of the movie to ‘and the Tennessee Kids.’ Originally I just wanted to call it “JT and the Tennessee Kids.” Then Netflix purchases it and they’re like ‘We have to say ‘Justin Timberlake.’” And I’m like, ‘We do?’” AP
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