It goes without saying that Catherine Benamou's new book is a must have for anyone interested in IT'S ALL TRUE. So after reading her synopsis of the three filmed segments Welles shot for IT'S ALL TRUE, as well as consulting the recently posted memos that Welles wrote to RKO, I decided to watch IT'S ALL TRUE again on the Paramount DVD.
To my great surprise, it seemed like a film I had never seen before, and one that I now found incredibly moving. After seein it again, I feel there isn't the slightest doubt that if Welles had been allowed to finish the film it would have been his third masterpiece in a row. It's truly an incredible piece of directorial acumen.
Of course, I must confess, that after all the years of hype, when I finally did see IT'S ALL TRUE in 1993 I was a bit disappointed. In fact, to be brutally honest, I was rather bored with it, and actually dozed off while watching FOUR MEN ON A RAFT. But let's face it, most contemporary viewers are really not prepared to watch what is essentially a silent movie today. Plus, I had no inkling about the various details regarding the background of the storyline of the film, which after reading CB's book, I am now far more more familiar with. So it's to be expected that you really have to bring a certain knowlege beforehand to understand and enjoy the movie. I think this is true to a great degree about almost every Welles film, excepting perhaps, THE STRANGER. Which is no doubt why Welles never had a box-office hit.
Another problem with FOUR MEN ON A RAFT was the musical score, which had received mostly bad reviews. I always felt that way, myself, but on re-viewing the film I think one reason the score seems so out of place is actually more due to technical reason. Think of Bernard Herrman's scores for KANE and AMBERSONS. They ran the gauntlet, from brassy, loud and epic, to delicate, beautiful and sublime. Both were masterpieces of music scoring.
Now, for IT'S ALL TRUE, the music obviously isn't up to the level of Herrmann's work, but's it's actually not bad. What's bad is how it has been dubbed into the movie.
Firstly, it's in stereo, so it seems completely out of place for a movie that way made 1942. This is really comparible to colorization of movies. Why should anyone expect or want to see a movie made in 1942 in stereo? Maybe they should have added computer animation to it as well.
And since FOUR MEN IN A RAFT is a film that has a complete lack of dialogue, the score has also been dubbed in at too high a volume. In contrast, the new foley of the ocean waves and other sound effects seems much more musical than the music itself.
But despite these flaws with the soundtrack, when I saw the film on DVD again, it gave me a completely different outlook on the movie. It also made me realize that Welles's work on FOUR MEN ON A RAFT was actually filmed on a budget of only $12,000. Talk about genius on a budget!
What was even more astonishing, though, was the brief excerpts from the Technicolor footage of the CARNIVAL episode. They are even more incredible than I had remembered. The footage Welles shot of CARNIVAL is so ravishingly beautiful, it is almost beyond belief! It brought tears to my eyes, watching this fabulous footage. It's easily some of the best three-strip Technicolor I've ever seen, and to imagine there is apparently much more of this footage waiting to be restored, except that no studio or backer seems to want to spend the money needed to perserve it.
As a result, it just sits in a vault, decomposing.
Can you imagine that?
The first Technicolor footage ever shot by Orson Welles may be lost forever! It's really an artistic crime.
Now, imagine if IT'S ALL TRUE were a canvas by Picasso or Van Gogh and was sitting in somebody's basement in Hollywood getting moldy. In that case, we'd have thousands of rich idiots lining up wanting to pay 20 million or more to buy it so they could hang it on their wall.
Well, maybe that's the solution. Offer anyone who wants to invest $10,000,000. to restore IT'S ALL TRUE the ownership rights. Then maybe somebody would realize what an incredible piece of art we are in danger of losing.
Steven Spielberg, are you listening?