A major event at Telluride was a restoration of Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind”, 48 years after filming. Welles shot the film between 1970-1975, and ran out of financing before a final edit could be completed before Welles died in 1985. Director Peter Bogdanovich (“The Last Picture Show”) who appears in the film was among those speaking after the film about working with Welles and the restoration.
“The Other Side of the Wind” is an extremely intriguing cinematic view of Welles’ impressions of the changing Hollywood of the 1970s and his own role in it. John Huston is charismatic, marvelous as Jake Hannaford an aging director making a film with several delays. Huston gives his character a macho swagger and an often sarcastic wit.
Welles satirizes the youth-oriented films of the era, having Hannaford’s film described as a “dirty picture” with “naked ladies”. Hannaford is called an “old guy trying to get with it”. Hannaford leaves the studio with his entourage for a 70th birthday party given by an actress (Lilli Palmer). Hannaford’s associates include actors from earlier Welles films like a hard-edged Mercedes McCambridge (“Touch of Evil”) and Paul Stewart (“Citizen Kane”). Film students accompany Hannaford, shooting him through different viewfinders.
Reflecting their real-life relationship Peter Bogdanovich plays a former journalist who interviewed the director who has now become a director himself, hot at the boxoffice.
Welles adds humor to the party scenes as guests pontificate and over-analyze about moviemaking. Young directors of the era like Dennis Hopper, Claude Chabrol, Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky appear as guests spotted at the party scenes.
Welles remained a master of framing for the camera, with distinctive use of angles, lights and shadows. Keeping current for the time, one scene has psychedelic colors.
Party guests attempt to view Hannaford’s latest film with a series of interruptions. In the film a woman (Oja Kodar) is pursued by a man. Both end up naked. Kodar, who was Welles’ companion at the time is listed as co-screenwriter with Welles. Hannaford is described as “making it up as it goes along.”
“The Other Side of the Wind” is now showing on Netflix.
After the film, Peter Bogdanovich described it as a “sad movie, …the end of everything. He added that Welles ”made a lot of sad movies” and that “artistry” was “his antidote”. He felt “sad Orson’s not here,… like nobody else”.
Joe McBride who acted in the film said ’48 years have gone by”. He described “Other Side” as a ”dense, rich film” and that Welles could “pack so much into every film”. McBride spoke of the fragmentation of Welles’ filmmaking. He said when Welles was asked when people involved with the film would meet Lilli Palmer who was portraying the party host, he replied that all of her scenes had been shot in Paris.
John Huston’s lead performance was described by Bogdanovich as “demonic, extraordinary, very contemporary”. McBride said Huston’s character was an attack on the macho Hemingway cult.
Bogdanovich said that in 1961, he was asked to organize a retrospective of Welles at the Museum of Modern Art. Seven years later, he got a call from Welles who told him “You have written the truest words about me in English”. Bogdanovich took over a large part in “The Other Side of the Wind” when comedian/impressionist Rich Little, cast in the role, displeased Welles.
McBride said the “18 hour work days” were “so much fun…full of laughter”. Bogdanovich said Welles was “wonderful with actors, not the crew”, saying “if they must eat, not linger.” Welles enjoyed Fritos, joking “you don’t gain weight if nobody sees you eating”.
Frank Marshall, now a major film producer (Indiana Jones films) was a production accountant on “The Other Side of the Wind”, said Welles fired him “every other day”. He added that Welles told funny stories and would burst into song.
Bogdanovich aid that seeing the last scenes of the film reminded him of the Shakespearean line “our revels now are ended”, adding “it’s as touching”.
After a screening of a short film called “A Final Cut for Orson: 40 years in the Making”, a discussion included Frank Marshall. The restoration procedure was described as a “treasure hunt”, using Orson’s notes. Welles shot on different types of film. Everything was scanned with new technology. This complete type of restoration could not have been done 10 years ago.