Last night I attended the Welles program at the UCLA Film & Television Archive Festival of Preservation. It was well worth the effort. Also in attendance were Gary Graver, Bill Krohn (co-director of the IT'S ALL TRUE documentary), Ed Marx (editor of IAT doc), and Michael Schlesinger (Paramount exec who shepherded IAT doc through production only to be fired for his efforts).
Joseph McBride opened the program, providing some context with comments as well as clips from ORSON WELLES' SKETCHBOOK, KANE, AMBERSONS, and the documentary IT'S ALL TRUE. He addressed some of the autobiographical elements of KANE and AMBERSONS (!), and had words of high praise for Roger Ryan's AMBERSONS reconstruction which he had seen at Locarno. He talked a bit about his upcoming book, "What Even Happened to Orson Welles?", and from his comments I gather that part of his thesis will be that Welles was essentially expelled from Hollywood by a combination of professional jealousy and political blacklisting (graylisting perhaps). He mentioned how frustrated the FBI was that they could never prove that he was a Communist despite years of investigations & surveillance. He also quoted Henry Hathaway's vicious comment made at the time of Welles' AFI tribute: "Why Welles? He only made one film!"
He also pointed out that RKO had actually budgeted IT'S ALL TRUE at $1.2 million, but had told Welles that it was only $1 million!
The second part of the program featured Catherine Benamou, whose book on IAT will be published this year (I can't wait). She provided a running commentary while three sections of IT'S ALL TRUE were screened.
The first was a group of rushes from MY FRIEND BONITO (20 min.); the sequence (none of which is included in the IAT doc) featured the roping & branding of the calves at La Punta ranch and the boy, Chico's, distress as Bonito is branded. This material was nicely photographed in beautiful crisp b&w and Benamou noted that Welles, who looked at the rushes daily, had made some general recommendations on camera placement.
The second section, also from MY FRIEND BONITO (from a rough assemblage by Jose Noriega under Welles' supervision - 15 min.), featured Mexican matadors "Chucho" Solorzano and "Armillita" Espinosa testing the cows at the La Punta ranch. This material was far more "documentary" in nature and less interesting visually than the first section.
The third section, from FOUR MEN ON A RAFT (from a rough assemblage supervised by Welles - 10 min.) featured the arrival of the Jangadeiros in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro. Interestingly, none of this material was used in the FOUR MEN IN A RAFT section of the IAT doc - apparently this reel was overlooked when material was being pulled for IAT. In fact, none of the gentlemen connected with IAT who were in attendance had ever seen this footage before! They seemed somewhat dismayed that they didn't have it available when FOUR MEN ON A RAFT was being put together. I overheard one of them say afterwards, "Dick Wilson missed the boat on this sequence. He was supposed to pull all the footage."
Ms. Benamou mentioned that Welles at some point had said that his attitude toward the material in IT'S ALL TRUE was influenced by both Robert Flaherty and "City Symphony". I'm not sure if by this last she meant Walter Ruttman's BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY or if she was referring to something else; unfortunately there was no time for a Q&A and I didn't get a chance to speak to her during the intermission. She said that the Mexican composer Carlos Chavez had been tapped to provide a score for the picture.
Here are some selected numbers on IT'S ALL TRUE from Ms. Benamou's program notes:
MY FRIEND BONITO
-preserved: 8,000 feet
-nitrate negative not yet preserved: 67,145 feet
-Technicolor negative preserved: 2750 feet
-Technicolor negative not yet preserved: 2700 feet
-Technicolor nitrate neg printed in B&W positive: 6500 feet [preserved?]
-B&W preserved: 3,330 feet
-B&W nitrate negative not yet preserved: 32,300 feet
FOUR MEN ON A RAFT
-total B&W nitrate negative: 64,000 feet
-B&W preserved: 35,950 feet
Robert Gitt, who is retiring as the head of UCLA's Preservation Dept., introduced "Macbeth sans Shakespeare", the screening of MACBETH without dialogue, only a music & effects track. I've never been wildly enthusiastic about MACBETH (more respectful than enthusiastic), but I must say that I have a new-found admiration for the film after having seen it in this way. It enabled the audience to focus on the physical performances of the actors as well as on the very sophisticated camera movement and the musical score by Ibert. Welles' performance on a physical level was especially good and stunningly camera-savvy. Gitt noted that both versions of the film are newly re-restored; I'm hoping this presages a Region 1 DVD release.