(us) wrote: Perhaps David Byrne should have become a film-maker is his later years? Who knows, but his only feature film, TRUE STORIES, is a veritable cornucopia of talent, a surreal, almost plot-less and Fellini-esque journey to the heart of America, specifically, a place called Virgil, Texas (really). There is to be a celebration of SPECIAL-NESS as it is pronounced in the film.David Byrne plays a caricature of himself, the film's omni-present but not exactly omniscient narrator, a man with an extremely vacant expression and tone half the time, which still sounds oddly endearing, despite his aggressive attempts to be detached. Dressed in a cowboy hat and riding in a red convertible, he explains various oddities in the film, like the strange and seemingly harmless and frivolous VARI-CORP, a mysterious technological company that is the anti-thesis of a Kafka association. That is, everyone is oddly human, the machines truly the result of dreams ("Steve Job said that..." one technician strangely states) and everyone is still entrenched in bizarre folk-lore and indeed, much of the film is like live-action folk-art.Among the characters in what is essentially a surreal and detached narrative include the only "main" individual, Louis, played by John Goodman. He's easily the most sensitive person of the other, more bizarre creations Byrne cooks up. There is a woman in which almost every single line she says is a lie ("It was love that killed JFK....He shouldn't have messed with me...."), the world's laziest woman, so rich and taken care of by machines that she has never ever left her bed; a fashion show hostess in the mall who sings the dreamy DREAM OPERATOR, her husband, a highly eccentric WASP who suddenly seems more endearing than one is comfortable with and also possesses magical powers when a scene demands it so; a voodoo magician who also takes care of the very lazy woman; the latino man who claims he can read people's waves by holding their noses (really, he can.) Also, he plays the organ. And then there's the random preacher who, despite being entrenched in conspiracy and hyperbole, bellows out startling truths that seem oddly prescient now than they did in the eighties.All in all, it's a rollicking good time, very funny, if not then charmingly awkward, stunningly photographed (every shot and image is a beaut) wonderfully scored (Byrne's songs in the film may not be pleasant on the ears, but the way they're used work beautifully) and has some great performances that never seem too much like cartoon strip characters.If Robert Altman captures a certain zeitgest and chaos of the seventies with his epic (also musical and also ensemble piece) NASHVILLE, then Byrne captures the tender, almost naive quality of what one wishes Americana would be like, where everything has a certain rustic quality to it, always surreal, but never austere, always paradoxical, but strangely endearing. The film has an improvisational and breezy quality: oftentimes, characters will address the audience, and several theatrical techniques are utilized: Byrne driving behind an obvious rear-projection, his dialogues often stilted and obliterated by his own awkwardness; the lip-synching musical number where numbers of strangers, big and small, men and women, all sing behind a microphone to the TALKING HEADS Wild Wild Life, giving the illusion that everyone sounds like David Byrne. It's woefully insane, but charming nonetheless.In fact, the film feels more European than American; it's as if Kubrick and Lynch produced a short film together on that one secret get-away you've always dreamed about happening. The dreaminess is only doubled by the strange production design: colors are bright, but not obnoxious, and the look seems to evoke the colorful and candid polaroid photographs that would instantly produce a reality that seemed unreal in its conception.Perhaps the most interesting use of this is the DREAM OPERATOR musical number, where a fashion show is progressing. What starts out relatively normal, albeit eccentric, becomes totally surreal as the escalating fashions begin to resemble the literal building blocks of life itself: woman dressed as flowers and plants and even bricks and roman pillars; a clean cut family is literally wearing freshly cut "grass clothes", physically symbolizing a fifties Americana that never existed, it all culminating in progressively gaudy symbols of marriage and love, the head-pieces becoming too heavy for a model who eventually topples over from the weight of the head-dress.While the scene sounds positively bizarre, well, it is, and it might even come off as pretentious, but in execution, it is quite cute and sincere, maybe even superseding what Byrne probably intended. Whatever the case, the scenes come fast and furious, and always startle with their inventiveness and originality. (with copious amounts of Fellini;s influence.) In fact, one might even be tempted to refer to Byrne's film as America Roma, like Fellini's Italian love-letter and portrait of the mythic city, where Fellini compresses several centuries of history, myth and culture into one spectacle. Byrne does the same, and he ends his film with a literal musical revue, all overseen, of course, by the voodoo priest, doing his thing by his shrine which resembles naive artwork itself.It's a strange world, but it's never jaded nor cynical. Byrne is too jealous of his own cheeriness, and seems determined to up the ante of charming touches. (he does misfire in one sequence, where a group of small children, dressed in green, seemingly come out of the middle of nowhere by a housing development, sing about being the greatest while they play their instruments of garbage can lids and wooden blocks. It comes off as a little too saccharine and contrived, even for Byrne.)In the end, it is also a highly subjective experience, as it is Byrne's baby, and no one else will truly understand it except for him. Again, I return to my first opinion, perhaps Byrne should've looked into making films. His is unique vision that seemed to come alive at moments in his music, but almost always in the music videos he produced himself (check out the BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE music video. Some elements from that one, including mismatched lipsynchers and actors figuratively representing one another, are almost lifted verbatim into TRUE STORIES.)I leave you with this quote by the character of Byrne in TRUE STORIES:"I have something to say about the difference between American and European cities. But I've forgotten what it is. I have it written down at home though. "
(de) wrote: Wake In Fright, a movie which takes place in the furiously sun-drenched and lethal Australian Outback is, quite naturally shocking harsh and perpetually bleak. It contains very little levity, few moments of optimism and is almost completely oppressive. From the unsettling score, wide angle shots and a camera which refuses to remain still, the atmosphere is always one of tension, paranoia and foreboding. Gary Bond, English actor and premiere Peter O'Toole lookalike, finds himself stuck in a backwards town where the locals are friendly, eager to talk and encourage him to stay by constantly filling him to the eyeballs with alcohol, i.e. the most accurate depiction of Outback Australian culture in cinematic history. The film depicts him slowly losing him mind, his brain eroded by booze, extreme heat, unhinged locals and the pervading insanity which surrounds him. Donald Pleasance steal the show, as far as being the most convincing madcap performance, chugging beer endlessly and smiling with the demented fervour of a man who long since embraced his lunacy. It's definitely not to everyone's taste, especially the brutally graphic Kangaroo hunting scene and the lack of light relief, but its plan is clearly to shock and surprise, and it manages both on more than one occasion. A one-watch movie perhaps, but one you will never forget.