True Stories (film)
|Directed by||David Byrne|
|Produced by||David Byrne
|Written by||David Byrne
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||October 10, 1986|
|Running time||90 min (USA)|
True Stories is an American 1986 film that spans the genres of musical, art, and comedy, directed by and starring David Byrne of the band Talking Heads. It co-stars John Goodman, Swoosie Kurtz, and Spalding Gray. Byrne has described the film as, "A project with songs based on true stories from tabloid newspapers. It's like 60 Minutes on acid."
True Stories was released by Warner Bros. in the United States, Canada, Italy, and Sweden in 1986, with limited release elsewhere the following year. Byrne was given much creative control over the motion picture's direction, largely due to the mainstream success of Talking Heads' 1984 concert film, Stop Making Sense.
The majority of the film's music is supplied by Talking Heads. A soundtrack album, titled Sounds From True Stories, featured songs by Byrne, Talking Heads, and Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band, among others. Around the same time, Talking Heads released an album, titled True Stories, which included the band's versions of songs featured in the film.
Plot summary 
The film features Byrne as an unnamed, cowboy-hat-wearing stranger who visits the fictional Texas town of Virgil, where he observes the citizens as they prepare for the Celebration of Special-ness to mark the Sesquicentennial (i.e. 150th) anniversary of the founding of the town and the statehood of Texas. The event is being sponsored by the Varicorp Corporation, a local computer manufacturing plant. Byrne's narration breaks the fourth wall many times in the movie, especially while he is driving around town in his Chrysler LeBaron convertible. At other times, sequences are filmed in a documentary style with Byrne's character as host.
Among the unique individuals the stranger meets is
- Louis Fyne, (John Goodman, in one of his first major film roles), a Country-Western-singing clean room technician at Varicorp who is unlucky in love
- Civic leader Earl Culver (Spalding Gray), who never speaks directly to his wife, Kay (Annie McEnroe)
- Miss Rollings (Swoosie Kurtz), who never leaves her bed
- Mr. Tucker (Pops Staples of The Staple Singers), Miss Rollings personal assistant, a voodoo practitioner whom Louis hires to help him find love
- A conspiracy theorist preacher (John Ingle) whose shtick owes a great deal to the Church of the SubGenius (in real life, Byrne is a SubGenius himself)
- Ramon (musician Tito Larriva), who claims telepathic powers
- "The Lying Woman" (Jo Harvey Allen), who recounts fantastic episodes from her life to anyone listening.
An early working title for the project (endorsed by bassist Tina Weymouth) was Wild Infancy. Locations for the filming took place in the Dallas suburbs of Allen, McKinney, Mesquite, and Red Oak. The mall and fashion show scene was filmed in the Northpark Mall in North Dallas. The parade scene at the end of the film includes various local groups including the Tejas Low Riders Club, and the Sunset High School Marching Band.
The movie was not a commercial success at the time of its release, though it has 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert gave it a glowing review. The film has achieved its greatest success in home video release, as a cult classic among fans of Byrne's work.
True Stories features a number of songs written by Byrne and performed by various members of the cast, as well as by Byrne's band, Talking Heads (the members of which make cameo appearances).
Talking Heads released an album titled True Stories in which the band performs most of the songs from the film, including songs that were performed by the actors in the movie itself. As such, the album is not generally considered a true soundtrack album, a fact Byrne points out in his liner notes on the release. Later, Byrne released an album containing primarily instrumental music from the soundtrack titled Sounds from True Stories, though it was never released on CD.
While several of the cast performances were released as bonus tracks on 12-inch single releases, no full album of cast performances has yet been released. As such, few of the original versions of songs from the film have found release. The Pops Staples version of "Papa Legba" and Tito Larriva's version of "Radio Head" appear as extra tracks on the 2006 Rhino reissue of True Stories; and John Goodman's version of "People Like Us" was initially released as the B-side to the single for "Wild Wild Life" and later was released on the 2006 Bonus Rarities and Outtakes collection, but the rest of the songs whose versions differ between the movie and album (John Ingle's "Puzzling Evidence," Annie McEnroe's "Dream Operator," and St. Thomas Aquinas School Choir's "Hey Now") are absent. "Cocktail Desperado", recorded by Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band and featured in the film, is included on the Sounds from True Stories LP.
The music video version of "Wild Wild Life" that debuted on MTV is largely a scene taken from the film, in which many of the film's characters (including John Goodman) lip-synch to the music in a night club; the video version is more risque and features more pop music references/parodies than seen in the film; the Prince and Billy Idol parodies remain in the film version. Similarly, the video for "Love for Sale" is the same as that seen in the film (in which Kurtz's character is shown watching it on TV), except the video version has additional footage of Talking Heads, more references to recognizable TV commercials of the day, and no intercuts to any of the film characters.
Coincidentally, the final hit of Pops Staples' group, The Staple Singers, was a cover of Talking Heads' "Slippery People," which was released two years prior to this film.
- YouTube page: "David Byrne Interview."
- "True Stories (1986) - Overview". TCM.com. Retrieved 2013-02-25.
- "True Stories :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2013-02-25.
- True Stories at the Internet Movie Database
- True Stories at Rotten Tomatoes
- True Stories at Box Office Mojo