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True Stories Criterion Blu-ray Review

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“True Stories” is an odd movie that doesn’t quite come together.

Directed by David Byrne (the singer of the band Talking Heads), 1986’s “True Stories” is a mockumentary of sorts that focuses on the fictional small town of Virgil, Texas. Acting as a sort of narrator and tour guide, Byrne blabs about the town’s history and landmarks and travels around the town and visits the mall, a club, a fashion show, a church, the Varicorp company and the town’s centennial celebration. Throughout his journey, he encounters a single making seeking a wife, a compulsive liar, and other unique individuals.

“True Stories” has become a quirky cult favorite over the years and I can see the appeal. It’s a mockumentary musical oddity that comes across as a blend between David Lynch and the sensibilities of the always original David Byrne. In retrospect, the “story” is actually quite prophetic in some ways as it shows a snapshot of America in the 80’s as the town (and country) undergoes changes. Outside of that curious element, the movie is a bit all over the place.

“True Stories” largely an ensemble piece but outside of John Goodman’s Louis character and perhaps the lying woman, there’s not much in the way of character. It would have been nice to have a few other characters to latch onto instead of characters that merely exist for laughs or to represent a part of Americana. From a narrative perspective, Byrne’s awkward appearances and narration (intentional or otherwise) are also a bit puzzling as he tends to disappear for stretches. It feels like he should be in every scene (or at least narrate it) and for a good chunk of time he does. When he isn’t around, it doesn’t narratively make much sense as we are seeing things he’s not talking about or showing us. It feels more like a traditional movie at this point which can take you out of the movie.

As I mentioned above, this is a musical movie. There are a few Talking Heads songs that pop up and those are clearly the highlights. However, there are also a plethora of other tunes. Some of these songs are actually song by characters including John Goodman’s love starved Louis. Your mileage may vary.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The new 4K digital transfer gives the film a more polished and colorful look.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? The track is strangely soft at times, but when the music starts playing the track bursts to life.

Extras:
* A booklet in small newspaper form featuring written pieces and essays by Rebecca Bengal, Joe Nick Patoski, Bill Barnes, David Byrne, Jack Alexander, and Spalding Gray. Easily the coolest booklet Criterion has come out with.
* 7 deleted scenes
* “True Stories” trailer
* “No Time To Look Back”- Filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross scope out the shooting locations 30 years later.
* “Real Life”- A 1985 32 minute film about the making of “True Stories” that contains set footage, interviews, and more.
* “Tibor Kalman”- An extra about the graphic designer who did album covers for Talking Heads and worked on material for “True Stories.”
* An intro by David Byrne
* “The Making Of True Stories”- A newly recorded documentary that covers various aspects of productions and contains a whole host of interviews.
* The 23 song soundtrack. The highlight here is Talking Heads tunes for sure.

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December 23, 2018 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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