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Directed by David Byrne
USA 1986


Music icon David Byrne was inspired by tabloid headlines to make his 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. 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.


Director David Byrne (of Talking Heads) takes an outside-looking-in glance at Texas and Texans in True Stories. Casting himself as the protagonist, Narrator, Byrne adopts what he thinks is "standard" western garb and drives his red convertible into the small town of Virgil. Here he observes the town's preparations for celebrating Texas' sesquicentennial, taking time out to introduce us to several of the local oddballs. Swoosie Kurtz plays Miss Rollings, the Laziest Woman in the World; Alix Elias is The Cute Woman, who decorates her home in the most hideously "sweet" manner imaginable; John Goodman is talent-contest entrant Louis Fyne, who harbors dreams of being a C&W star; Spalding Gray is Earl Culver, a vegetable-obsessed civic leader; Jo Harvey Allen is The Lying Woman; and so it goes. The script by Southerners Byrne, Beth Henley and Steven Tobolowksy strives to avoid subtlety.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE


Theatrical Release: October 4th, 1986

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Review: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

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Also released on Blu-ray by Criterion in January 2019 in the UK

Distribution Criterion - Spine #951 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:29:17.352      

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-rays

Disc One: 49,458,867,906 bytes

Feature: 27,706,484,736 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.85 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Blu-ray:


DTS-HD Master Audio English 3430 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3430 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit))

Subtitles English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:


1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-rays

Disc One: 49,458,867,906 bytes

Feature: 27,706,484,736 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.85 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


Edition Details:

• Introduction (0:23)
The Making of True Stories - New documentary about the film’s production, featuring Byrne, Lachman, screenwriter Stephen Tobolowsky, executive producer Edward Pressman, coproducer Karen Murphy, fashion-show costume designer Adelle Lutz, casting director Victoria Thomas, consultant Christina Patoski, actor Jo Harvey Allen, and artist and songwriter Terry Allen  (1:03:48)
Tibor Kalman (11:49)
Real Life (31:29)
Deleted Scenes
Play All (14:18)
Cute Woman Monologue

Heart Attack
Kidnapping Skit
No Time to Look Back (11:46)
Trailer (02:28)
CD containing the film’s complete soundtrack, compiled here for the first time (Blu-ray only)
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 documentary about designer Tibor Kalman and his influence on Byrne and work on the film, featuring Byrne and artist Maira Kalman, Tibor’s widow
Deleted scenes

Blu-ray Release Date: November 20th, 2018
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 29




NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

"True Stories" is a wild pastiche of a film, full of mixed media. Criterion have a wonderful newly restored 4K-restored Blu-ray transfer, supervised by director David Byrne and cinematographer Ed Lachman. The 1.85:1 1080P image is housed on a dual-layered Blu-ray with a maxed out bitrate. The level of detail in the picture is fantastic. The colors of the film have quite the range and they are faithfully represented in this transfer. Contrast levels are also strong here, with quite the spectrum of blacks. There is very, very little damage present here. Another jaw-dropping transfer from Criterion.

Criterion present "True Stories" in a 5.1 surround track that is 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio. The separation is really nice, though the main attraction here is the always catchy music from Byrne / Talking Heads. This lossless transfer was also approved by Byrne. There are optional English subtitles on this Region A

Blu-ray is loaded with extras. First up is a brief introduction to the film from David Byrne. Next up is the 1-hour "The Making of True Stories", an all new documentary made by Criterion. This doc focuses on "True Stories" (Byrne's only feature-film-directing effort) from its conceptual origins through its production in Dallas, exploring the precise and singular vision that informed all aspects of its making, from writing to costumes to production design. The making-of features Byrne, actors Jo Harvey Allen and Spalding Gray, artist/songwriter Terry Allen, cinematographer Ed Lachman, costume designer Adelle Lutz, producer Karen Murphy, consultant Christina Patoski, executive producer Edward Pressman, casting director Victoria Thomas, and writer Stephen Tobolowsky. Next up is "Real Life", filmmakers Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel were invited to create a film about the making of David Byrne's True Stories in 1985. This is the resulting thirty-two-minute short, capturing members of the cast and crew interacting with locals and getting to know the Texas communities in which they were filming, and includes a tour of the Ewing house from the hit television series Dallas. This is an archival analog video presentation so the quality is a little rough. "Tibor Kalman" is a brand new 12-minute documentary exploring Kalman's legacy. Kalman is known for revolutionizing graphic design. His company, M&Co, was innovative in brand-identity work, and it created several album covers for Talking Heads. M&Co worked again with David Byrne on the opening montage and poster design for True Stories. This piece features Byrne and Kalman's widow, Maira Kalman. We are also treated to 14-minutes of deleted scenes, available individually or with a "play all" button. Just over thirty years after director David Byrne's journey to "Virgil, Texas," filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross returned to True Stories' shooting locations in search of its people and places. The film they made is a celebration of 182 years of the extraordinary special-ness of Texas, it is the 12-minute "No Time to Look Back" and is also included here. Rounding out the Blu-ray is the film's trailer and essays by critic Rebecca Bengal, journalist and author Joe Nick Patoski, and Byrne, along with a 1986 piece by actor Spalding Gray on the film’s production and a selection of Byrne’s preproduction photography, tabloid clippings, and writing about the film’s visual motifs. The set also includes the film's soundtrack, compiled here for the first time. Very cool!

Though I've always been a casual fan of Byrne and The Talking Heads, somehow the mere existence of this film has skipped by me. Well, no more! This is an awesome kaleidescope of America that could hold up to some of Altman's finest moments. And John Goodman, my god that is one fine thespian. Did I mention this comes with the complete soundtrack? Criterion's
Blu-ray rocks, this film rocks, we all rock!

Colin Zavitz






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Box Cover

CLICK to order from:


Distribution Criterion - Spine #951 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


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