Sunday, December 2, 2018

Orson Welles' "The Other Side of the Wind" US Theatrical Run: Nov 2 - 8

The corridors and convolutions of the production, filming, editing, and now finally distribution of Orson Welles' "The Other Side of the Wind", spans more than four decades and is labyrinthine in the extreme. Suffice it to say, all of that won't be covered here. What can be said of what Welles himself referred to as "the only original movie I've made since Citizen Kane" in 1975's "F for Fake: Orson Welles’s Purloined Letter", is best accounted for by those involved with its production. The November Sight & Sound offers a insider's report on the film's protracted gestation from Joseph McBride, who as an actor in the film itself, as he reflects on Welles' work in the changing film culture of the 1970s. This includes the film's conceptual genesis in Welles' 1969 essay for Esquire, “Twilight in the Smog: Solemn Suburbia Crowds Out the Raucous Old Circus”, a undeveloped early screenplay for the film titled, "Sacred Beasts", and the endless legal battles among the rights holders, compounded by a initial production which owed part of it's financing to the brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran. All of which kept the 1,083 reels of negatives inside a warehouse in a suburb of Paris, despite numerous efforts spanning decades, to complete the film. Finally released from an ever increasing series of deadlock, in 2014 Royal Road Entertainment with the assistance of producer Roger Marshall, negotiated an agreement with all holders and would purchase the rights to the film. Shortly thereafter it was announced that "Orson Welles’s Last Film May Finally Be Released", with Peter Bogdanovich and Marshall overseeing its completion. "The Epic Story of Orson Welles’s Unfinished Masterpiece" would continue. After a series of failed crowdfunding efforts, the film's producers secured funding from Netflix, who put forward the funds for both restoration and extensive assembly of the finished editing. There was some 100 hours of footage to craft a film as Welles has conceptualized it. Shot in 35mm and 16mm, Super8, color and black and white, from his completed sequences, and editing notes, there was evidence of the form and structure Welles had envisioned for "The Other Side of the Wind".

It was then left to editor Bob Murawski in association with the project’s executive producers, Peter Bogdanovich and Beatrice Welles, to conceive and execute it's form. Thus began the painstaking work of selecting shots and editing, with Murawski working from a cut by Welles which appeared half complete, and questions of sufficient or lost material. McBride was brought in as a consultant on this initial edit, from which both he and Bogdanovich supplied pages of notes on their remembrance and participation in the film's production. What followed was that "The Unfinished Orson Welles Film Finally Received a Debut", but not without the complications caused by it's funder, Netflix, being the producer, distributor and exhibition platform, which resulted in it's exclusion from Cannes. Without such restrictions, three months and “48 Years Later, Orson Welles’s Last Film Made Its Debut”, at the Venice Film Festival. It's premier was met with such reviews as Peter Bradshaw's "The Other Side of the Wind: Lost Orson Welles Epic is Hurricane of Anger and Wit" for The Guardian, and The New York Times' “‘The Other Side of the Wind’ Is Orson Welles’s Haunted Hall of Mirrors”, from Manohla Dargis. Netflix' policy in releasing its exclusive content in limited engagements, or in some cases not at all outside of being available on its streaming platform, has further complicated access to a recent string of releases by notable American and international arthouse directors. By producing, distributing, and exhibiting new films by Bong Joon-ho, Alice Rohrwacher, Alfonso Cuarón, Aleksei German, and the Coen Brothers, "Netflix’s Movie Blitz Takes Aim at Hollywood’s Heart", thereby significantly limiting the opportunities for these director's work to be seen and achieve notoriety in the traditional theatrical sense. Spoken of and speculated about for decades, it could be argued that "The Other Side of the Wind" has accrued a legendary stature disproportionate with its content. Netflix optioning the film for a one week domestic theatrical run does little to aide filmgoers and cinephiles the opportunity to make their own judgement in regard to the film that Peter Bradshaw declared; "Every bit as brilliant and chaotic and exasperating as you would expect, garrulous and madly disputatious. A fascinating image of Welles’s own fierce self-questioning yet self-affirming state of mind, and the state of American cinema itself as the Hollywood golden age was about to give way to the New Wave."