October 15, 1986 [True Stories]

David Byrne in his movie True Stories--wearing a cowboy hat a little too big for him, driving a car too big for anybody, in a landscape even bigger--seems somewhere in the vicinity of Pee-Wee Herman, with a little Harry Langdon around the eyes--but he's as thin as a skittish lizard, and about as easy to lay your hands on. Everyone's wondering if he's making fun of "people like us who will answer the telephone" and "growing big as a house"--you know, the kind "with the television always on." He sees an invented mysticism in these lives, but he scatters them across a dry-scrub plain, where they land in little barren boxes and call it home. It's a National Enquirer world of the true-but-false, and Byrne blandly displays the Woman Who Never Leaves Her Bed and the Man Who Advertises for a Wife alongside voodoo cures and Puzzling Evidence.

But the music's good, and the performers are more than game--the show all but stolen by a big guy, John Goodman as Louis, with his snazzy outfits and dogged optimism--and that's the kind of thing that wipes the sneer off David's face: the mystery of the everyday--or whatever it is that keeps Louis from feeling foolish. In the end, I don't blame Byrne: I smirk a little at them myself--then feel bad, if only because I go home and the television's on, as usual.


Popular Posts