A small but growing Texas town, filled with strange and musical characters, celebrates its sesquicentennial and converge on a local parade and talent show.A small but growing Texas town, filled with strange and musical characters, celebrates its sesquicentennial and converge on a local parade and talent show.A small but growing Texas town, filled with strange and musical characters, celebrates its sesquicentennial and converge on a local parade and talent show.
- The Little Girl on the Roadas The Little Girl on the Road
- (as Capucine DeWulf)
It is of course a comedy, but it is really so much more, because, as the film claims, it is a 'multi-purpous' movie.
To fully understand this film's meaning, we first have to first look at what this film is about. A bunch of people living in Virgil, Texas. It is important to note this because this film is not about the place, as it is about the people who live in that place, for, really, what is a city without people?
True Stories examines one man in particular amongst all the others. Louis Fyne, or Louis the Bear. Louis is the quintessential common man in all of his glory. He is not a real man, but a symbolic character, much as everything else in this film, and it is his own stark conveyance of his personality which allows us to say, 'yeah, I know how he feels,' because deep down inside, we all want what Louis wants, and that, of course, is love.
Swoosie Kurtz, as the lazing Miss Rollings, represents another typical American feature. Materialism. Miss Rollings, despite her enormous wealth is not content, and hence her appetite for consumption, she too, is looking for love, but does not yet know it. It takes Louis' performance for her to realize that she, too, is lonely.
These two characters, Fyne and Rollings, are the main symbolic features of this film. It is there search for fulfillment, and eventual arrival at that fulfillment, which comprises the bulk of the film. This is not to say that they alone are the only symbolics in search of love, for example, the assembly line conversation expresses many different modern views on love, and the many feelings associated with it (bitterness, lust, heartbreak). And also the search for significance and meaning are taken by the 'cute' woman (she cannot bare sadness, and so chooses to ignore it, focusing only on the cute things), and the Lying Woman (who is obviously disappointed by the reality of her life, and so seeks to enrich it, and impress it, by making up for her lacking reality with a rich and vibrant fictional history). However, there is more to this film then just the search for love and significance.
There is the Varicorp head (the defacto ruler of Virgil) and his love for business and overall work which shows the corporate obsession in today's America. The line at the dinner table about work and pleasure is merging together is brought home earlier in the film by the varitech tourgide Byrne talks to in the mall of Virgil (he is working on a project at home, for his own pleasure) the trick of the future then is learning how to keep these inventors inside Virgil, and harness their power.
This brings us to the technology theme. Technology is a major theme throughout the entire film. We are all trying to use the latest technology to make our lives easier, and fulfill our desires. Louis speaks briefly on a computer dating service he used briefly, and the resulting woes we now frequently associate with such ventures (he ended up with a midget). The Varitech tourguide speaks of computers as a form of expression, like an art.
What is truly amazing is how true this observation has really become. No longer is it just the geek building a PC out of a box, or a processor taking up an entire football field, now we have computers everywhere, built into all our facets of life, and many of us feel more comfortable expressing ourselves over a digital medium than our typical tactile method.
Structures are also highly symbolic in this film. The multipurpose boxlike structure of vari-corp, the likewise square shape of the stage, the metal buildings, and even the suburban housing developments are all symbolic of the different ways humans have found ways to not only live their dreams out, but mass order them. In True Stories the idea of the house as the platform of the dream is brought forward with amazing clarity. The suburban sprawl exists as the homebase for the modern American worker, and the cultivation of a family (or lack thereof, as doomsday is, after all, right around the corner) is the progression of the individual dream. On a business sense, Byrne looks the possible cheapening of that dream with the construction metal building. Order it out of a catalog, and in a couple of days, maybe a week, it's done.
Spirituality and religion is another aspect of this film that deserves observance. Notice the difference between organized religion, and the vague, hazy voodoo christianic faith that are portrayed in this film. What good does the preacher in the church do compared to the work of the witch doctor (if he did indeed do anything at all). Notice that while the Mexican character is the keyboardist for the church, he is also selling the address of the old witch doctor, and that while all the members of Virgil seem to show up at the large church, the witch doctor still gets plenty of business (as is represented by the large amount of photographs in the shrine).
Consumerism in a broader sense (more than just materialism) is also apparent in True Stories. Shopping is a Feeling is an excellent portrayal of the consumer American. People are no longer shopping to acquire, but to experience. It is a sort of religious, enriching experience, as people share the shopping feeling with their friends and loved ones.
Time is also a major element in True Stories. In speaking of the history of Virgil, Byrne goes all the way back to the days when the area was covered by ocean, and of course, the song, City of Dreams, is a very transcental piece examining the passage of ideas from people to people.
Finally we must look at music as a form of communication, possibly the largest aspect of the entire film (and understandable, too, considering that this film is technically a musical), music is taken beyond mere entertainment and portrayed as a way of conveying feeling, emotion, and truth. Louis' highly anticipated song conveys much about his character, as does Dream Operator for wife of the Varicorp head. Every song in True Stories serves a purpose in conveying the nature of a character.
In summation, True Stories is a film about America in a microcostic sense. Virgil is America. And we are the special people Virgil is celebrating, because even the most magnificent people don't look that special at first glance. And of course, even though some ideas presented in the film are slightly scary, Byrne makes not opinionated statements. He take everything in, and gives it out, with that same subdued earnestness we have come to expect by the end of the film, and it leaves us wandering, perhaps none of all this is really that bad after all, just different.
- Dec 6, 2004