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True Stories: Criterion Collection - Blu-ray Review

“I was born in a house with the television always on…”

David Byrne, the lead singer of Talking Heads, has directed only one feature film . . . so far.  And his movie, True Stories, begins on the open road.  It is a dirt road that divides two agriculture areas.  A girl is on the road and she looks to be a free spirit.  Head in the clouds and then, driving a red drop-top cruises through the small town of Virgil.  He’s the narrator and his job is to guide us through this collection of wacky stories. 

This opening, featuring a soliloquy to highways and byways and other “fancy driving” tools, is a beginning as weird and as unique as you would expect from this artist.  His mind is definitely aligned more with David Lynch’s than any other director that comes to mind.  Spacy, hilarious, and full of great music, True Stories – a film built around tabloid headlines – opens on the 150th anniversary of this fictional small town.

"Get ready for the weirdness; True Stories doesn’t lie."

And Byrne, who believes he can see Fort Worth from the comfort of this small town, is our guide.  Starring John Goodman, Spalding Gray, Pops Staples, Swoosie Kurtz, Tito Larriva, John Ingle, and 50 sets of twins (as Roger Ebert discovered), True Stories is one hell of a romp through Texas and through the music of Talking Heads.  And it is all syphoned through the eccentricities of Byrne who, after the blazing success of director Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, was given full creative control.  And, man, did he ever run with it.  Much to Warner Bros chagrin, I’m sure.

The end result is a movie that is constructed around Byrne’s cowboy-hatted narrator and the people he runs into, all with their own stories to tell.  Whether in the mall or in the clubs or in the privacy of their own home, Byrne’s character has arrived in the small town to celebrate its specialness, all celebrated by the Varicorp Corporation, a well-known company that makes computers. {googleads}

With meditations on shopping (it’s a feeling!), thoughts of escaping, and consumerism run amuck in America, Byrne load his movie with comedic commentaries that definitely take their topics head-on.  Beauty is celebrated here and so, too, is ordinariness in this so-called life we live.  The film is bizarre – especially when you witness the fashion show in the mall – and its construction definitely takes an appreciation for what has come before from Talking Heads.  Newbies are definitely going to be scratching their heads in the beginning and, with nary an explanation, crying in a corner by the end of the film.

But these stories ring true:  we get the woman rich enough to never leave bed, a technician who can’t land love in his life, a leader in the small town who can’t find the strength to talk to his wife, a singer who can catch tones from people, and a voodoo priest who tries to tie things together for people.  There are more stories, of course.  Psychics, especially one who claims to have written half of Elvis’ songs, out on the prowl looking for love and so on.  They are hilarious and, as mined from the tabloids, do more to bring out the truth in people than most care to admit. 

True Stories: Criterion Collection - Blu-ray Review

With cinematography from Ed Lachman (The Virgin Suicides), this film succeeds on many levels.  It does EXACTLY what Byrne set out to do.  Vignettes telling “true” stories about the weirdness of the human condition.  Rich.  Poetic.  Hilarious.  And so much weird and trippy fun; all set to Talking Heads music. 

Count me in.  The movie, now out on blu-ray thanks to a rich new 1080p transfer from Criterion Collection, takes its time in explaining what the peppers on the dinner table mean.  Economics becomes a spiritual thing in Byrne’s eye. 

Get ready for the weirdness; True Stories doesn’t lie.  Puzzling Evidence indeed!

5 beers


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True Stories: Criterion Collection - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
89 mins
: David Byrne
Stephen Tobolowsky, Beth Henley
David Byrne, John Goodman, Annie McEnroe
: Musical | Comedy
A Completely Cool, Multi-Purpose Movie.
Memorable Movie Quote: "What time is it? No time to look back."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 10, 1986
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 27, 2018
Synopsis: The Talking Heads front man plays a visitor to Virgil, Texas, who introduces us to the citizens of the town during preparations for its Celebration of Specialness. As shot by cinematographer Ed Lachman, Texas becomes a hyperrealistic late-capitalist landscape of endless vistas, shopping malls, and prefab metal buildings. In True Stories, Byrne uses his songs to stitch together pop iconography, voodoo rituals, and a singular variety show—all in the service of uncovering the rich mysteries that lurk under the surface of everyday experience.


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True Stories: Criterion Collection - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- November 27, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

True Stories, as presented by Criterion features a new and fully restored 4K scan.  The result is a glorious crisp image and has deep blacks and bright colors.  The transfer was supervised by director David Byrne and cinematographer Ed Lachman this past year.  Textures in the clothing and in the backgrounds are solid and details in the shoot – looking very much like a natural shoot thanks to all the exteriors – are solid throughout.  And the music?  Shit.  With 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, supervised by Byrne, this is BRILLIANT.



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Special Features:

Criterion – in this director-approved release – nails the vibe and the brilliance of the movie with their packaging, including a tabloid inspired booklet, and many, many unique featurettes.  There is a new documentary about the making of the movie, featuring great interviews from Byrne and the film’s production crew, including screenwriter Stephen Tobolowsky.  A CD featuring the film’s soundtrack is also included.  There is a short documentary made on the set of the film, a NEW homage to Virgil, Texas, and a new documentary about designer Tibor Kalman’s influence over Byrne.  Deleted scenes and a trailer round out the supplemental material.

  • The Making of True Stories
  • Real Life (1986)
  • No Time to Look Back
  • Tibor Kalman Documentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailer


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True Stories: Criterion Collection - Blu-ray Review