On Saturday I saw David Byrne speak at the Castro Theatre here in San Francisco. It was the 25th anniversary of True Stories, which he starred in and directed, a movie I admit I hadn’t even heard of until I had bought tickets.
I absolutely adore David Byrne. He’s one of my cultural icons – I love what he has produced as an artist, writer, and musician, and I love what he has done with his interests and fame (promoting sustainable transportation, city planning, world musicians).
Take his blog posts, which go so much beyond the genre’s lazier elements; they are well thought-out, long, and wholly original. (If you haven’t read them, promise me you’ll start). This same philosophy can be found in his 2009 book, Bicycle Diaries, in which he recounts his experiences biking in many of the cities he has travelled to over the past 25 years. He’s an open, good-natured reporter who assumes a similar philosophy in his reader.
I was therefore quite excited to see him speak, despite never having seen the movie. True Stories, I learned, came directly from those human interest stories buried in supermarket tabloids – the woman who wouldn’t leave her bed, the man advertising for a wife on tv, the man who hears peoples’ frequencies like a radio. It’s a quirky film, to be sure, but without some of the overtly adorable elements we’ve come to expect in so-called “indie” films.
In the movie, Byrne is both visitor and tour guide to the small town of Virgil, Texas (looking quite spiffy, I may add, in cowboy hats and bolo ties). The small town boasts some famous faces, including John Goodman in an early role, as well as some homey extras. I was most drawn in by the musical numbers, all Talking Heads songs, some sung by characters (including Goodman!) in the film. It’s an odd film, but ultimately fun and quirky.
AFter the film, there was a Q&A session, and I gotta say, I was a bit disappointed. The event was part of SF Sketchfest, so I’m not sure how much they had to promote the comedy aspect, or highlight the film history aspect, but I would have been interested in hearing Byrne speak about the process of arranging the music for the movie, or even biking in Texas.
Still, it was great to even hear him speak, and discover his movie. Here’s one of my favorite scenes, in which little kids traipse through tract homes construction sites: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlNafR-gJU4&feature=related]