Orson Welles’ Final Film ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ to Be Released At Last

September 3, 2018

Orson Welles’ final film The Other Side of the Wind has finally been completed–after 48 years! The legendary Citizen Kane director shot the unconventional satire from 1970 to 1976, but the footage remained only partially assembled for decades. Indeed, the production was inundated with financial, legal, and casting obstacles all the while it putted along trying to keep its creative team working together cohesively over the course of several years.

The Other Side of the Wind is shot in a mockumentary style with John Huston portraying an aging director modeled after Ernest Hemingway who is striving to complete an edgy counterculture film-within-the-film. Overall, Wind parodies the old studio system and the New Hollywood filmmakers of the 1970s and highlights the perceived egotism of European directors, intrusive media figures, as well as the politics of movie making. In line with Welles’ other final movies, he used a low-budget, experimental, and frenzied visual style.

John Huston was cast as the film’s lead three years into production; Welles’ girlfriend during the latter years of his life, Oja Kodar, plays the role of “The Actress;” Peter Bogdanovich portrays a young commercially successful director assisting John Huston’s character; and Susan Strasberg portrays a film critic.

It seems that Welles would have earned his way to being regarded as a member of the Hollywood elite after receiving overwhelming praise, including an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, for the 1941 film Citizen Kane–especially considering he co-wrote, produced, directed, and performed the lead role of Charles Foster Kane. But instead, Welles was an outsider of the studio system and he struggled for creative control of his films. Rebelling, the innovative director adapted by looking for independent financiers while pursuing his unique cinematic style utilizing unusual camera angles and sound techniques borrowed from his experiences in radio.

As much as Welles’ creative genius is celebrated, his ability to procure reliable funds for his films often fell short. And when it came to financing The Other Side of the Wind, it seems a whole movie could be written about the funding saga. For instance, according to some accounts, one individual was pocketing large sums of money received by the brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran, all the while claiming the Shah’s relative was postponing payments for the film.

Fortunately, in 2017, Netflix managed to bring together 100 hours worth of footage–some shot on 35mm, others on 16mm, some in black-and-white, others in color. Producer Frank Marshall and Polish-born filmmaker Filip Jan Rymsza acted as detectives hunting at length for missing footage and financiers. Indeed, portions of the film ended up being dispersed across the globe with various financiers owning separate portions of Welles’ footage. But Netflix moved in all these decades later and assisted in getting the job done. A team of dedicated archivists and technicians diligently worked to follow Welles’ extensive, meticulous editing notes hoping to achieve the famous director’s final and precise vision of the film.

Peter Bogdanovich felt a devotion to Welles and said of his lengthy and unpaid experiences working on the film, “With all its confusions and problems, the shooting of ‘Wind’ turned out to be the ultimate fun set. Welles saw it all as a take-off on [European director] Antonioni and his imitators. It was a perfect representation of Orson’s vision of film and filmmakers, reflecting his humor and his sensibility.”

The Other Side of the Wind debuted on Friday at the Venice International Film Festival and is headed for the New York Film Festival Sept. 28 through Oct. 14. It will be featured worldwide on Netflix on Nov. 2 and, according to the film’s trailer, will play at select theaters.