Movie buffs know the legend of film director, writers, and actor Orson Welles’ uncompleted final work, The Other Side of the Wind. Shot in chunks between 1970 and 1976 — it was nothing new for Welles to take years shooting a film this way, due to financial and legal difficulties — the movie was meant to be a satiric look at the death of classic Hollywood and the rise of the ’70s avant-garde. The story starred John Huston as an aging film director looking to make a comeback, and featured a daring film-within-a-film structure. Welles shot the movie in a number of different styles, utilizing different film stocks, which were all going to be cut together into an experimental collage (years before Oliver Stone’s JFK and Natural Born Killers popularized such techniques).
But unfortunately Welles died before he got a chance to complete his film. It seemed The Other Side of the Wind would never be properly cut together and released, but would forever remain another frustratingly mysterious part of the Welles legend, along with his unproduced Heart of Darkness film and his never-realized director’s cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. Random bits of footage featured in documentaries were all folks ever hoped to see of Welles’ last potential masterpiece.
Over the years, though, efforts have been made to dive into the reported 1,083 reels of Other Side of the Wind footage Welles left behind after his death in 1985. After a long road through a legal morass, including battles with Welles’ partner and co-writer Oja Kodar, the world is finally getting a chance to see an assembled version of the lost film. Wellesnet reports (via Screen Crush) that Netflix has jumped on board and agreed to release the film, and that the streaming service has even commissioned a 35mm print for possible theatrical screening.
Wellesnet says that according to producer Filip Jan Rymsza all of Welles’ footage has been sent to Los Angeles to be mastered in 4K by Technicolor. Jan Rymsza talked about the culmination of his long quest to get The Other Side of the Wind finished and released:
“Everything is signed. All the deals are fully closed, both the Netflix deal and all of the rights deals. Everything we have done for the past year and a half has been grueling, but that’s finally over and now we get to be creative and finally bring this film to life.”
Editing of the film will be overseen by Orson Welles’ friends and fellow filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, who promised the legendary director on his death bed that he would complete the movie. Frank Marshall, who was a crew member during the original shooting, is also producing alongside Jan Rymsza. Wellesnet has a whole fascinating account of the long process that led to Orson Welles’ last movie finally seeing the light of day.
Obviously we can never know for sure whether this finished The Other Side of the Wind will be the movie Orson Welles truly intended. But the fact that we will get to see one last film directed by the man who made Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, and Chimes at Midnight, even one he didn’t get to finish himself, feels like enough of a miracle.