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True Stories (1986)

True Stories is an annoying and troubling film in several respects. It is the kind of project that floats purely on hype financed by hype promoted by hype.

Not so much a movie as a feature-length rock video held together by a kooky storyline, with former Talking Heads main man David Byrne strolling through the eccentric lives of the common, but secretly colourful folk of the fictional community of Virgil, Texas as they prepare for their annual “Celebration of Specialness” which they will celebrate with a parade and a concert.

There is no real main character, but the narrator, Byrne – alternately intriguing and condescending – introduces the town and its people with deceptively bland yet quirky observations. His ironic detachment ultimately wears out its welcome, though the soundtrack, as you would expect, is consistently entertaining.

Louis (John Goodman), a worker at the electronics plant that provides most of Virgil’s population with its livelihood turns up most often. Louis is looking for love, a wife to “share his life” and even resorts to advertising on local TV to achieve this, seemingly unaware that all of his yearning smacks of desperation and is not likely to attract a mate any time soon.

The other characters range from a woman who seems to have lived a life straight out of The National Enquirer, complete with references to space aliens and Elvis Presley (she is credited as “Lying Woman” at the end), to another woman (Swoosie Kurtz) who is so rich that she spends her whole life in bed watching TV, waited on by a butler and not seeing the need to move from her mattress when the whole world is broadcast into her bedroom.

Then there’s the preacher who turns his sermon into a lecture on conspiracy theories, with gospel singers backing him up.

There are a string of sequences that start out with ingenious scenes and turn quaintly eccentric, like the fashion show where the hostess starts to sing as the costumes become more and more outlandish, from conservative grey suits to ones made out of lawns, or representing classical architecture, or the parade itself which features the traditional cheerleaders and majorettes, but also lawnmowers, babies in pushchairs, accordion players and elderly men zooming around in tiny cars.

David Byrne
Louis Fyne
John Goodman
Miss Rollings, the laziest woman in the world
Swoosie Kurtz
Earl Culver
Spalding Gray
Cute woman
Alix Elias
Kay Culver
Annie McEnroe
Mr Tucker
Roebuck “Pops” Staples
Tito Larriva

David Byrne