True Stories – re:View

January 9, 2017108 Comments

Jay and Josh discuss the little-seen film True Stories, written and directed by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

Filed in: re:View

  • Ukisociety Jones

    Saw this in the theatre. Loved it!

  • The Elusive Robert Denby

    Great album, too.

  • Jonathan Burrello

    Love this movie so much.

  • Jaws 3DD

    This was great.

  • Slograman

    What your analysis fails to take into account is that True Stories was never meant to be a stand-alone film. It clearly ride off of the Talking Heads album trilogies. Yet “True Stories: a Talking Heads Story” is itself not part of a trilogy; thus, it is stand-alone in that manner.

    The CGI resurrection of actor Spalding Gray was perfectly fine and did not sink into the uncanny valley at all. Without his seminal scenes, the audience wouldn’t get the connection between Gray’s character and his past appearances. It’s important to include Spalding Gray references in Talking Heads films, everybody knows that.

    And finally, what you fail to grasp is that Byrne’s rebellion against the Varicorp Corporation isn’t meant to be emotionally acted, it’s supposed to be stark and miserable. The scenes that are shot documentary-style are meant to be gritty.

    Once again, RLM has taken Rich Evan’s cynical take on art/comedy films and applied to to another apologist video. Can’t wait to see the Plinkett review on True Stories, it’ll just be more fanboy garbage.

  • Skippy

    I’m so glad you guys share my enthusiasm about this film. I’m also one of those annoying people that forces others to watch it if they know me long enough. It’s honestly the most underrated film I know of.

  • Finally a Re:View about something I haven’t seen! Love the Talking Heads, I watched Stop Making Sense with my parents as a kid. We had it on VHS! So I’ll have to check this out. Thanks, guys!

  • “Everything’s weirder in small towns… but just a little bit.” Quite accurate.

  • “J&J watch a strange movie few of you have ever even heard of”
    The new pilot from RLM.

  • No.

  • Yezzir!

    Alright you two hacks. Based on your review I added it to my Netflix queue. How have I never heard of this? I love small weird movies.

  • DeL Keyes

    Jay sure loves his locked shot compositions. Is there anything wrong with a film having dynamic cinematography, or “show-offy” artsy visuals as he described time and time again?

  • David Anderson

    Someone’s butt is hurting 🙁

  • The Wicker Man (BWF)

    Great movie. It’s a film version of David Byrne’s photography books.

  • Omis

    What does this have to do with Rogue One?

  • Bertin

    How can you call yourself a Talking Heads fan and not know about this movie? So many hits came from the album True Stories.

  • Otherhand

    Yes, David Byrne knows how funny he is. Everything he does is deliberate.

    No, he’s not laughing at these characters. He loves them.

  • Andrew

    Oh God, a Jay and Josh episode…

    Just kidding, they’re all great.

  • Craig Gibson

    True Stories did very little fan service to true Star Wars fans. Very little.

  • Thanatos Lover

    I’ve never seen this movie but I swear I’ve seen the poster a thousand times. I’ll check this out soon

  • Bhazor

    So much to love about the film. Sadly I think the music is probably the worst part.

    As a big Talking Heads fan True Stories is probably their worst album. By quite a ways. But unusually the versions in the film are actually a lot better than the album versions. I especially liked Pops Staples version of Papa Legba which becomes this amazing laid back self affirmation.

    I’ve heard a few times that this film is where the band started to fall apart and I can believe it.

  • Bhazor

    His interviews in the extended Stop Making Sense film show he can be brilliantly funny. The fact he never really pursued film making or acting is just a tragedy.

  • Bhazor

    This movie was like 60 minutes. On acid.

  • Otherhand

    I guess that he realises that, to be at his best, he needs to be this specific character he invented, and he needs to write it, and he needs to have executive control.

  • Danger Mountain

    Is it just me, or does David Byrne look like some rogue geneticists mashed up Jim Parsons and Christian Bale?

  • TheEasternBorder

    Thank you! I and my wife watched this movie tonight because of this re:view and it was one of the most bizzare experiences of my life. And I loved every damn second of it. I really noted how everyone involved seemed really happy to be there, like, even all the extras are trying really hard and enjoying being in this movie – and this added a special layer of weird to this. 11/10 would buy themed toys.

  • ikdks

    I met Spalding Grey. It was a real learning experience.

    For those of you who don’t know they used to call him the worlds greatest conversationalist. I met him after he did Monster in a Box, hanging out outside the theater.

    I said “How are you.” He said “I’m good. You?” I said “fine”.

    Boom. Done. Worlds greatest conversationalist, ladies and gentlemen.

    Then i realized, I’m the one that has to prove myself. He’s mot going to try to win over some schmuck. I’m the fan, the onus is on me.

    Then i figured, i don’t need to meet tv people. I’ll just watch them on tv.

  • fred

    Has Mark Wahlberg been in anything good besides Boogie Nights?

  • Bob

    David Byrne is one of the most perceptive and creative artists of the 20th century, and he is a gentle and knowing soul. Once in a Lifetime can answer almost every question about modern life, if you are willing to hear it.

  • RLMkeepitup

    one of his first roles in Fear was decent. since the happening? no

  • strophariad

    Radiohead took their name from a song in this.

  • EJ

    Three Kings.

  • david dallas

    I watched the whole thing and not a word! What the hell?!

  • fred

    ok so Boogie Nights is still the highest point. 3 Kings was fine…nothing special.

  • Byrn has always had a way of riding that line between ridiculing and adoring absurd human behavior. I think he recognizes behavior that is short-sighted and egocentric, but also sees flaws as being beautiful. He probably also figured out a long time ago that being judgmental is part of that equation and realizes the irony in criticizing others for being human.

  • He’s presumably been in his wife…but she’s terrible looking, so not her.

  • RLMkeepitup

    There’s a very brief shout out to Rich Evns in Jim Sterlings latest vid: “Nintendos virtual console is trash”. Guess he’s a fan boys.

  • I think that’s a great way of putting it.

  • bernverdnardo

    The musical stuff is just too much for me. Its like trying to re-watch Labyrinth.

  • Sounds like you need the power of voodoo

  • DJDeluxeSupreme

    What’s that shirt Jay’s wearing? I really want it.

  • scottmercer

    Say Hi to your mother for me.

  • scottmercer

    I saw it in the theater in the original run. You have to be a fan of the Weekly World News I think.

  • CGI_Leia

    Mike, is it true that you will no longer be participating in any Re:View videos? Just answer the fucking question..

  • The Wicker Man (BWF)

    Apparently, dance magic didn’t work for him, so you may be right.

  • Mark Bisone

    Three quick things:

    1) My wife and I saw Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia” live show back in the day (I hate to say the exact year, for obvious reasons). Brilliant example of the “True Stories” dilemma, where it was unclear how sincere the storytelling was, but also irrelevant to the audience’s enjoyment.

    2). A co-worker of mine was half of the pair that discovered Gray’s corpse in the East River I think it kind of fucked him up back then, but he seems to be over it now.

    3) I love “True Stories”, and am glad Jay and Josh gave it a review. It’s like “Gung Ho” as directed by Nick Chapman.

    Happy New Year, you bearded fucks.

  • Nineteen Eighty Jaws

    I liked Gung Ho, pretty good movie, good soundtrack too.

  • John Shepardson

    Been a huge fan of this film for decades. Was always a bit sad that there was never a cast recording available commercially. Used to have a tape that I recorded directly off the VCR that I would listen to in the car. Also stumbled upon Spaulding Grey’s spoken word stuff around 1995 or so. I think it was Cinemax that was playing Swimming to Cambodia one night when I was channel surfing. I have to agree with Jay. It doesn’t sound like the sort of thing you would like, but he’s so engaging that the next thing you know, you have been watching for an hour plus.

  • This episode of the “Nerd Crew” podcast parody show is their best yet.

  • Joe Syxpac

    Okay, I really want that Creepshow/Father’s Day shirt!

  • A double CD / DVD package, incorporating the soundtrack, the Talking Heads album and the film seems like a no-brainer.

  • Spoiled Ants

    Mike never took part in re:view, they used a cgi version of him because he was busy playing videogames.

  • sepiajack

    count me amongst those who had never heard of this movie – but I’m sufficiently intrigued thanks to this re:view, I’ll check it out!

  • I’m pretty sure they give pretty high praise to long gliding shots as well (such as the one from the beginning of Escape From New York, or the use of long takes in Birdman). I think it’s mostly shaky cam they don’t like.

  • DeL Keyes

    I remember Jay not being on board with Paul Thomas Anderson’s early films with more colorful shots. I’m sure he’s okay to all kinds of shot if they’re effective, but he seems to prefer static shots.

  • Brian Levine

    The day when I realized that I completely understood that song was a very, very scary day for me.

  • Brian Levine

    Every single Marky Mark video.

  • Brian Levine

    Sssshhhh!!!! They’re not supposed to know.

  • Bleurgh

    I liked The Departed.

  • Bubs

    This was the least inspirational story I’ve ever heard.

  • Bennett Duckworth

    Thanks so much for giving this gem some attention. I never expected to see it mentioned on this site, but I forgot how Re:View is another avenue of film discussion for you guys. Anyway, I’m sure I spent a decade showing people this movie along with Steven Soderbergh’s “Schizopolis” as re-watchable movies too odd to sell to your average person.

  • Well I prefer static shots in action. I like static shots and long takes because it helps give me a sense of believable continuity.

  • Robyn Boynton Muth

    thank you thank you thank you! It’s so nice to see my favourite movie reviewers also love my favourite band. I had never heard of this movie although I’m a huge Talking heads fan, much like Jay. I went and watched it before I watched your review, made my day! Cheers!

  • Guys, thank you for showing me this movie. I never heard of this one before and just watched it tonight for the first time. I just fell in love with the film. it felt true and sincere. could you maybe talk more often about different kind of movies?
    I’d like to know what you think of tarkovsky, kurosawa, haneke,…

  • DeL Keyes

    Static shots in action is certainly preferable over shaky cam and speed cuts. Personally, I prefer medium-speed dolly shots in long takes, because it’ll present a sense of motion and dimension while providing said continuity. It’s the best of both worlds, so general audience won’t be bored and visual-sensitive viewers would recognize what’s happening.

  • Now I Get It

    Oh, shit, do we all have to do one?

    1) Conversely to the “True Stories” dilemma, when I saw “Stephen Toblerone’s Birthday Party”, by, coincidentally, Byrne’s writing partner, the storytelling was clearly sincere and true, yet I enjoyed it less that I’d hoped to.

    2) Plus an in-person tendency to run my mouth as if my past is the only thing anyone should want to know, I have but one thing in common with Gray’s former self, in that I was day-homed with a Christian Science woman who disliked stubborn little boys obsessed with dinosaurs. (Many, many thousands of days since without a suicide attempt.)

    3) Is that “Gung Ho” as directed by film school Nick Chapman or studio sell-out Nick Chapman?

    On behalf of semi-bearded fucks everywhere, I’ll thank you that this year has begun happily enough, if tentatively.

  • supercrotchinator

    He’s satirizing Star Wars fanboys, dude. I mean, “CGI resurrection of actor Spalding Gray”? C’mon.

  • fred

    That is a good one.

  • Troll Prince The White

    haha. When I switched from “Newest” to “Best” I was hoping for something special.

    I got it.

  • Troll Prince The White


  • Frank Lovejoy

    I first saw Spalding Gray on A&E, back when it was more than just another shit reality-show channel. I was watching “An Evening at the Improv”, and right afterwards “Swimming to Cambodia” came on. It was captivating. I ended up getting all his books.

    A few years later I was in college having a snowball fight and someone walked by talking to his girlfriend about going to the campus theater. I casually asked what they were going to see, and he said “Oh, Spalding Gray is doing some show, I think it’s called Gray’s Anatomy”. I ran over and there were still tickets. I can’t say it was as good, but it was really cool to see this guy live, and so randomly.

    Afterwards he signed books. I ran back to my dorm, got one of my books, and when my turn came I was desperately trying to think of some way to make him remember me. So I said “Can you make up a name and sign as that person?” And he just looked at me like I was an idiot, then said “Well, if you know my work, you know I am incapable of writing fiction”. Then he smiled, signed it, and moved on to the next person. Nice enough guy for a New England neurotic. Shame he let his love of his own depression go so far.

  • Frank Lovejoy

    Ah, yes, the movie from when the left thought we should have deposed Saddam. How do lefties keep their outrage straight?

  • Otto Tomato

    We sure this isn’t a John Waters tribute film?

  • I can vibe with that. I like an in-between. It really depends on the movie, though.

  • BigMcLargeHuge

    Saw him live 4 times. Love that guy.

    I don’t think he “let his love of his own depression go so far.” His car accident really messed with his head. Tragic.

  • Duckler

    I’m starting to thing that re:View is turning into “Things Two of us Cannot Make the Rest Watch”

    I’m very okay with that!

  • Judge Frownyface

    Supposedly, it was seeing the movie “Big Fish” that really pushed him over the rails of the Staten Island ferry.

    People should see Swimming to Cambodia too, it’s a better movie than True stories. I saw Gray 3 times, loved him, and it makes me sad whenever he comes up.

  • Ryan Lonergan

    The audio levels between the discussion and the film clips is very different and is hard to listen to

  • RLMkeepitup

    in other news woody herrelson is going to play han solo in the next starrwarrsss

  • ikdks

    You didn’t let me tell you the rest of the story.

    He committed suicide.

  • tweakerbelle

    Thanks – this is one of my favourite movies. So cool to hear people rave about something that’s actually worthwhile. Good job!

  • fred

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  • danjor

    My movie like that (one you’ll be forced to watch once you know me long enough) is Wim Wender’s “Until the End of the World”
    Talking Heads have a couple songs in that movie. I think.

  • I don’t think you understand.
    More. Rogue. One.

  • fred

    Is Caddyshack the first stoner movie? It’s definitely the best.

  • Cream-A-Thon

    So what does Josh/Wizard have on RLM to warrant him being there and not working the dog kennel next door?

  • Kelsie

    I keep a text file on my desktop of all the movies I want to eventually watch, when I have time. It’s a file I update every few weeks or so as I add or remove films as I hear about or finally watch them. I have, er, kinda strange (shh not hipster, not really) taste in movies so having a list is helpful since I don’t tend to be that interested in new or popular films and I have a weak memory for titles and things. I prefer interesting or funny movies over good ones, if that makes sense.

    By now it’s easily more than half populated with films which Jay has recommended… now including this one.

  • StSeptimus

    UtEofW is great, however, I saw the director’s cut a little over a year ago and didn’t enjoy it as much as I was hoping to. I love Wim Wenders, and I love spending a day inside a movie theater, but it seemed to drag on to me.

  • StSeptimus

    The song “Wild Wild Life” ended up being a pretty big hit in the US when it was released as a single.

  • Duckler

    Josh is dead. It’s in the official Friday the Birthday Dick vidya game.

  • Imaf

    I’ve done something similar, in my Amazon wishlist.

  • Imaf

    And less TFA!

  • peterablex

    I had never heard of this, looks interesting.

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  • Seth

    I gotta watch dis.

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  • Andrew James Campbell

    Could you list them by any chance? I also love jay’s recommendations but I am not as astute at noting them down as yourself.

  • Kelsie

    I remember watching these based on his recommendation:
    Blue Ruin
    Call me Lucky
    World’s Greatest Dad
    Ex Machina (unless maybe that was Mike, or both of them)
    Birdman (I think they both recommended it)
    Lost Soul (documentary about the Island of Dr. Moreau)
    Another documentary, what was it… uh… oh dear…
    [EDIT] It was Electric Boogaloo

    I’m sure I’m still forgetting some.

    I have these Jay-approved films on my list but haven’t watched them yet:
    Murder Party
    The Witch (VVitch)
    Swiss Army Man
    It Follows
    True Stories


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  • Summer B

    Fake News.

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