Criterion really goes all out with this edition, packing in quite a bit of material that will please both film fans and Talking Heads fans alike!
The supplements first open with a 23-second introduction from director David Byrne who explains what he was aiming to do with the film. It looks to have been recorded around the time the film was made and has been sourced from a VHS tape.
The intro is then followed by a 63-minute making-of documentary created by Criterion and features interviews with Byrne, cinematographer Ed Lachman, screenwriter Stephen Tobolowsky, executive producer Edward Pressman, coproducer Karen Murphy, fashion-show costume designer Adelle Lutz, casting director Victoria Thomas, consultant Christina Potoski, actor Jo Harvey Allen, and artist and songwriter Terry Allen.
As one can probably surmise from that list of participants this documentary covers every aspect of the film in a staggering amount of detail. How the film was developed wasn’t too large of a surprise: according to Byrne the film’s star was always going to be the music and the narrative was born out of images and sequences that Byrne had in mind that Tobolowsky had to construct a story out of (with the influence of stories from Weekly World News). From here the feature is then pretty much broken into sections covering different aspects of the film, from the fashion show (and the grass suits) to the set design, and then the general look of the film, with Byrne joking that his attempt to not make the film look “arty” ended up making it look “arty.” It’s a fascinating production story with a few surprises (I’m a bit shocked to learn everyone was so unsure about Goodman in the role), and it has been nicely assembled by Criterion.
Expanding on the film’s look and the influence designer Tibor Kalman had over it, Criterion next includes interview with Byrne and widow Maira Kalman. The two talk about the designer’s previous work, including his designs for a number of Talking Heads albums, his font designs (I actually didn’t know he designed the opening titles for The Silence of the Lambs), his poster designs (one rejected one was used for the cover of this Criterion release), and more. The feature ends up being a lovely 12-minute tribute to Kalman in the end.
Criterion then includes the 32-minute making-of Real Life, directed by Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel, made at the time of the film’s release. This documentary follows around the production and some of the people that appear in the film, getting some random interviews (including with Byrne). Even Byrne’s parents show up to talk about the script, which they don’t understand. This documentary is mentioned in the other making-of and is a rather fascinating document, off-kilter itself, just like the film.
The disc also includes 7 deleted scenes, running a total of 14-minutes. They’re all pretty good and are basically all new segments, not just extended moments, and all look to be sourced from VHS. There’s an extra scene around the guy from the factory (who is a UFO nut), an added skit where Boy Scouts talk about what to do to avoid being kidnapped, and there is also an added funeral sequence. It would have been nice to get an optional commentary to talk about the scenes, but Byrne talks about some of these scenes and why they were cut in the included making-of.
A rather fun little feature is No Time to Look Back, one of those features that revisits locations used for the film. These can be hit-or-miss but this one is pretty fun (if maybe a little depressing in places because some locations are rough unsurprisingly) and manages to also get some interviews with the locals. The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer.
The included “booklet” is rather cute: it replicates one of those check-out tabloid newspapers like Weekly World News, is a fairly lengthy 20-pages and is loaded with photos and fun headlines. It contains an essay on the film by Rebecca Bengal followed by another by Joe Nick Patoski on the “Texas-ness” (I guess you can say) of the film, which I found to be an especially great read. You also get the reprint of an article on Byrne by Spalding Gray, and then Byrne provides a new piece on the film’s soundtrack. You’ll also find random little sub sections and reprints of the actual articles that inspired the storylines in the film. This last bit is fun!
And what may prove most exciting to people, particularly Byrne/Talking Heads fans, is that Criterion also includes a CD of the film’s original soundtrack, available together for the first time here.
Overall this is one of the more satisfying collection of supplements put together by Criterion this year. Incredible effort has been put into this and I’m at a loss as to what else could have been added. A really terrific effort. 10/10