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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • New documentary about the film’s production, featuring David Byrne, Ed Lachman, writer Stephen Tobolowsky, executive producer Edward Pressman, coproducer Karen Murphy, fashion-show costume designer Adelle Lutz, consultant Christina Patoski, actor Jo Harvey Allen, and musician Terry Allen
  • CD with 23 songs, containing the film’s complete soundtrack, compiled here for the first time
  • Real Life (1986), a short documentary by Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel made on the set of the film
  • No Time to Look Back, a new homage to Virgil, Texas, the fictional town where True Stories is set
  • New program about designer Tibor Kalman and his influence on Byrne and role in the film, featuring David Byrne and Kalman’s wife, artist Maira Kalman
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Rebecca Bengal, along with new pieces by journalist and author David Byrne and Joe Nick Patoski, a 1986 piece by actor Spalding Gray on the film’s production, some of

True Stories

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: David Byrne
1986 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $49.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #951
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: November 27, 2018
Review Date: December 20, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

Music icon David Byrne was inspired by tabloid headlines to make this sole foray into feature film directing, an ode to the extraordinariness of ordinary American life and a distillation of what was in his own idiosyncratic mind. Byrne 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.


PICTURE

David Byrne’s solo feature film True Stories receives a new Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 4K restoration scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

Warner Bros. released the film previously on DVD but I don’t recall how it looked (I think it was one of their flippers with both a widescreen and standard version of the film on either side) but there is no way it looked anywhere near what this looks like. The new restoration makes it look brand new, like it was filmed yesterday, filled with an unbelievable amount of detail in every frame, even the long shots of the landscape, which all present astounding depth. I also had no idea how colourful this film is, the DVD never leaving any sort of impression on me in this area. Colours are so incredibly bright and bold here, the film laced with gorgeous reds and greens that are perfectly saturated. It all looks so incredible. Black levels themselves are also impressive, and crushing is not an issue.

There are no print flaws to speak of and no digital artifacts of note. It retains a film-like image, right down to the rendering of the film’s grain. It looks absolutely stunning in every area and Criterion has really outdone themselves here. The film has had so much new life injected into it. It looks incredible!

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion includes a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track and the track manages to surprise with the amount of activity. Most everything is focused to the fronts but some background effects and the music sequences spread things out to the rears. Dynamic range is impressive, especially during those musical sequences, and there is no background damage or noise to speak of.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion really goes all out with this edition, packing in quite a bit of material that will please both film fans and Talking Heads fans alike!

The supplements first open with a 23-second introduction from director David Byrne who explains what he was aiming to do with the film. It looks to have been recorded around the time the film was made and has been sourced from a VHS tape.

The intro is then followed by a 63-minute making-of documentary created by Criterion and features interviews with Byrne, cinematographer Ed Lachman, screenwriter Stephen Tobolowsky, executive producer Edward Pressman, coproducer Karen Murphy, fashion-show costume designer Adelle Lutz, casting director Victoria Thomas, consultant Christina Potoski, actor Jo Harvey Allen, and artist and songwriter Terry Allen.

As one can probably surmise from that list of participants this documentary covers every aspect of the film in a staggering amount of detail. How the film was developed wasn’t too large of a surprise: according to Byrne the film’s star was always going to be the music and the narrative was born out of images and sequences that Byrne had in mind that Tobolowsky had to construct a story out of (with the influence of stories from Weekly World News). From here the feature is then pretty much broken into sections covering different aspects of the film, from the fashion show (and the grass suits) to the set design, and then the general look of the film, with Byrne joking that his attempt to not make the film look “arty” ended up making it look “arty.” It’s a fascinating production story with a few surprises (I’m a bit shocked to learn everyone was so unsure about Goodman in the role), and it has been nicely assembled by Criterion.

Expanding on the film’s look and the influence designer Tibor Kalman had over it, Criterion next includes interview with Byrne and widow Maira Kalman. The two talk about the designer’s previous work, including his designs for a number of Talking Heads albums, his font designs (I actually didn’t know he designed the opening titles for The Silence of the Lambs), his poster designs (one rejected one was used for the cover of this Criterion release), and more. The feature ends up being a lovely 12-minute tribute to Kalman in the end.

Criterion then includes the 32-minute making-of Real Life, directed by Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel, made at the time of the film’s release. This documentary follows around the production and some of the people that appear in the film, getting some random interviews (including with Byrne). Even Byrne’s parents show up to talk about the script, which they don’t understand. This documentary is mentioned in the other making-of and is a rather fascinating document, off-kilter itself, just like the film.

The disc also includes 7 deleted scenes, running a total of 14-minutes. They’re all pretty good and are basically all new segments, not just extended moments, and all look to be sourced from VHS. There’s an extra scene around the guy from the factory (who is a UFO nut), an added skit where Boy Scouts talk about what to do to avoid being kidnapped, and there is also an added funeral sequence. It would have been nice to get an optional commentary to talk about the scenes, but Byrne talks about some of these scenes and why they were cut in the included making-of.

A rather fun little feature is No Time to Look Back, one of those features that revisits locations used for the film. These can be hit-or-miss but this one is pretty fun (if maybe a little depressing in places because some locations are rough unsurprisingly) and manages to also get some interviews with the locals. The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer.

The included “booklet” is rather cute: it replicates one of those check-out tabloid newspapers like Weekly World News, is a fairly lengthy 20-pages and is loaded with photos and fun headlines. It contains an essay on the film by Rebecca Bengal followed by another by Joe Nick Patoski on the “Texas-ness” (I guess you can say) of the film, which I found to be an especially great read. You also get the reprint of an article on Byrne by Spalding Gray, and then Byrne provides a new piece on the film’s soundtrack. You’ll also find random little sub sections and reprints of the actual articles that inspired the storylines in the film. This last bit is fun!

And what may prove most exciting to people, particularly Byrne/Talking Heads fans, is that Criterion also includes a CD of the film’s original soundtrack, available together for the first time here.

Overall this is one of the more satisfying collection of supplements put together by Criterion this year. Incredible effort has been put into this and I’m at a loss as to what else could have been added. A really terrific effort.

10/10

CLOSING

A really great edition, one I never thought I’d see for the film. The restoration looks incredible and it is apparent people who love this film worked on this edition. From its supplements to its packaging, booklet and CD soundtrack, this is one of the more fun releases I’ve gone through in a while. Highly recommended!


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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