History Lessons for Forgetful Forgers

Junior Boys – Second Chance

Orson Welles Brazil

I was pretty surprised that not many (or any) reviews of Junior Boys’ “It’s All True” mentioned the connection to Orson Welles and his work. Jeremy Greenspan talks a little bit about it in this interview, but it seems like that aspect of this album didn’t receive a lot of consideration in reviews. The album is named after Welles’ abandoned/failed documentary, “It’s All True,” which was funded, in part, by the Office of Inter-American Affairs and was to be completed as a gesture of Western Hemisphere esprit de corps, kind of an encomium/gift/threat to Central and South America that this half of the world needed to close ranks and keep its shit together while things were getting terrible and weird in Europe. So, in short, everything about this film’s existence was bizarre: its origin, its agenda, its subjects (total hodgepodge), and its production, the history of which is reminiscent in every particular to an episode of the Twilight Zone (more on that below). One of the main reasons why this documentary is notable, at least in terms of Welles’ career, is that it’s thought the lack of communication between Welles and the studio, while he was down in Brazil shooting, resulted in the (by all reports) absolute hack-job of an edit on “Magnificent Ambersons” and the eventual loss of the excised footage from that movie, which, in the original form Welles intended, was supposedly the equal or better of “Citizen Kane.”

One of the segments that was to form the main body of “It’s All True” was called “Four Men On A Raft,” based on a story Welles had read in Time magazine. Four Fortalezan fishermen sailed down to Rio on a small raft to protest and militate against political bullshit of various types, and they had made it that whole way, almost 1,700 miles, and accomplished what they had set out to do (new regulations about fishing, mostly). Welles liked this story so much that he wanted to re-enact it for the documentary. The four fishermen played themselves and everything went fine until the leader, Jacare, fell off the raft and was swept away. Then, and this is grisly, his remains were found inside a shark a couple weeks later. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that that’s almost unbelievably terrible–the kind of punishment and death usually visited upon the major deviants and criminals in Greek myths.

All this is background to point out these heartbreaking lines in “Second Chance” when Greenspan sings, “Fresh Brazilian water/you fell and couldn’t swim and no one bothered/when you died/what’s really tragic/is that you missed the shot to get/what you’re really after.” Greenspan’s singing about himself for most of the song, but that little section is a pretty obvious reference to Jacare, and I think it works into JG’s interpretation of second chances, i.e., they aren’t always a good thing. One of the reasons why I like the Junior Boys so much is for the way they pack these sort of details into their songs, and take inspiration from different media, different artists, and use those to enrich the experience of their music–though I get the impression that they don’t care, one way or another, whether the references and pastiche is apparent to anyone but themselves.

[Buy It’s All True]

[You can find a version of the Welles documentary here, it’s mostly a compilation of footage, interviews, etc.]

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