I feel like I’m missing some of the love that has been cast upon Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne’s feature film, True Stories. A strangely provocative movie about a small, fictional town in Texas preparing for the sesquicentennial celebrations. Narrated in a loosely fourth wall breaking performance by director and star David Byrne, True Stories relies on the unique styling of its direction and the many strange and ubiquitous characters that litter the little town of Virgil, Texas.
Leading man and narrator Byrne takes the wheel of his red automobile, cruising through the town as he discusses whatever happens to be on his mind. “Do you like music?”. There’s no reply, but there’s still a feeling of conversation as he stares into the barrel of the camera, the choppy green screen behind him giving away the sense of illusion. Much of True Stories is exactly like that, an illusion forming and sumptuous piece of cinema, that I truly do not understand. Some strange scenes litter the movie, and it reminds me somewhat of the characteristics of a few cast members in the likes of Delicatessen or Bernie. Strange individuals that all seamlessly fit together into one mixed group of hubris and coy correspondence.
With John Goodman at the centre of it all, True Stories becomes more a focus on the mundane yet enjoyed lifestyle of Louis Fyne (Goodman). An aspiring singer, he looks for marriage and love while the festivities come to a climax. Following a handful of townsfolk as they prepare for the celebrations, True Stories looks to do everything it can to produce an exceptionally weird variety of towns people. Some work better than others, and while not everyone provides much interest, its leading cast are more than enough to work in substantially enjoyable ways.
Most surprising of all is the exceptional direction that Byrne brings to the table. Outsiders to the profession of directing often have mixed results, but Byrne’s keen eye for detail and spreading his own unique messages are front and centre, leading to the cinematography being built around his ideals, rather than his ideals building off of neat camerawork or rigid designs. It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s just a shame that he lingers on the less interesting parts of his movie, with comedic moments that last too long and dramatic moments that are all too short.
True Stories is most certainly an interesting movie, maybe for the sheer fact that it’s directed by a man who isn’t known for directing. It provides stunning visuals, a disconnection between reality and fiction. Not large enough to notice visually, but certainly enough weirdness to feel running through the dialogue and performances. Definitely worth the watch for its cast and camerawork alone, True Stories is an intricate and interesting piece that forgets what it wants to be around the halfway mark, but doesn’t look back.