Calling all film aficionados and film history buffs: a new documentary about Orson Welles’ last film The Other Side Of The Wind recently dropped on Netflix and it’s the delve into the mind of a genius we’ve all been waiting for.
The film is about the late Orson Welles, a film director whose hit film, Citizen Kane, changed the course of films forever. Voted the picture of 1941, the film was nominated for no less than nine Academy Award nominations and walked away with the ‘Best Screenplay Award’.
Public release of the film was halted in 1942 because of the war and was only released in the US in 1956. Upon its release, it was described as “the work that influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation.” Probably one of the most amazing facts of the entire film, to me, is that Welles was a mere 25 years old when the film was made.
If you’ve never heard of Welles or Citizen Kane, do not be alarmed. This film and the director’s success lies in the way the film is assembled and constructed – it is truly mesmerising to watch from a technical point of view – especially considering that it was produced in the early 1940s.
If you’re interested in learning more about the film, check out this amazing Crash Course:
Okay, so why does his last film matter?
Some might describe Citizen Kane as a one-hit wonder. Achieving this great feat at only 25 years of age put a lot of pressure on the young director, and Welles became notorious for his array of unfinished projects. The Other Side Of The Wind is probably the most notorious of all his unfinished works.
The film was intended to be a satire of both the passing of Classic Hollywood and of the avant-garde filmmakers of Europe and New Hollywood in the 1970s. They began shooting in 1970. After several starts and stops, production finally concluded in 1976 due to funding issues and a run-in with the Shah of Iran, who was responsible for some of his funding. It ended with the footage being confiscated and stored in a Parisian vault for years.
The film, which was never completed, tells the story of a director making his final film to cement his place in the canon, and starts with the death of said director. It takes the form of a mockumentary and is in effect a film within a film. Confused yet? It all gets very meta as we dive into this famous director’s mindset at the time of filming. Welles also vehemently denied the very obvious autobiographical parallels in the film till the very end.
What makes this documentary, currently streaming on Netflix, so interesting is the fact that it forms such an integral part of the discussions that have been surrounding the film for decades, in effect almost prompting a type of completion. Netflix took this a step further by actually restoring and finishing the footage of The Other Side Of The Wind and releasing it in conjunction with They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.
What Netflix really succeeds in doing with this film, is painting Orson Welles as a tortured artistic genius, and not in a sympathetic manner either. No details are spared as we see Welles struggling to come to terms with the ways in which he is failing. But they do also place an emphasis on his redeeming qualities, making this a very honest portrayal of a great film director and his journey to make the ultimate comeback film.
Have a look at the trailer for The Other Side of the Wind (recently completed by Netflix):
As well as the They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead documentary:
*Featured image from Variety.com