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Review - It's All True (DVD-2006)
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It's All True [DVD]

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It’s All True (DVD-2006)

Paramount Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Daniel Severin


Orson Welles is acknowledged today as a prescient cinematic pioneer. In an intriguing recent documentary called It's All True, three filmmakers present the history of Welles's unreleased opus of the same name. The flawed but fascinating film, new on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment, will delight anyone interested in the history of cinema, movie studio politics, or Orson Welles. Most of the footage in It's All True has never been seen before. That a film by one of Hollywood's most talented and controversial directors sat unviewed in RKO vaults for over 40 years is shocking. It's All True presents for the first time the history of Welles's unusual project and how it got him fired from RKO.


Welles's work was to be a multipart documentary based on shocking but true news stories to be recreated on celluloid and shot on location in
Mexico and Brazil. Yet the endeavor seems to have been doomed from the start. Welles was exhausted from directing The Magnificent Ambersons and acting in the film Journey into Fear. Cautious studio executives, a limited budget, and the tragic drowning of a lead actor are only three obstacles that interfered with production. The director's tenacity and defiance of orders led to the shelving of the project and Welles being fired from RKO.


Welles's impressive footage foreshadows the Italian neorealism of filmmakers like Luchino Visconti and Roberto Rossellini. Today's filmmakers have edited the footage into a frustrating documentary that feels as unfinished as Welles's own work. Narration by Miguel Ferrer and interviews with Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles himself flesh out the story, but something still seems to be missing. With that caveat, It's All True is essential viewing. The Brazilian footage is astounding and in pristine condition. The riveting silent film Four Men on a Raft, the only portion of the original project that is nearly complete, comprises two-thirds of It's All  True.


Cinephiles who know and love Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, and other classic Welles films owe it to themselves to buy It's All True and see a new side of the director's genius. The documentary is a bit confusing, but the story behind it is fascinating and well worth watching.

 

 

2006 Daniel Severin/Celluloid Dreams

 

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