సిటిజెన్ కేన్ దర్శకుడు ఆర్సన్ వెల్స్ దర్శక్త్వంలో వచ్చిన చిట్టచివరి సినిమా ’The Other side of the wind’. ముప్ఫై ఏళ్ళ క్రితం వెల్స్ రూపొందించ తలపెట్టిన ఈ సినిమా దురదృష్టవశాత్తూ పూర్తికాలేదు. ఈ సినిమాలోని పూర్తయిన భాగాలు చూసిన వారి అభిప్రాయాల ప్రకారం ఈ సినిమా విడుదలయ్యుంటే వెల్స్ మొదటి సినిమా ’సిటిజెన్ కేన్’ అంత సెన్షేషనల్ సినిమా అయ్యుండేదట.
ఫిల్మ్ వితిన్ ఫిల్మ్ టెక్నిక్ ఉపయోగించి రూపొందించిన ఈ సినిమా గురించి మరిన్ని విశేషాల కోసం మరియు ఈ సినిమాలోని కొన్ని వీడియో క్లిప్పింగ్స్ కోసం కింద చూడండి.
This is a story about a legendary movie that no one has ever seen by one of the giants of American cinema, a movie about movie-making shot in the director’s twilight years but never completed and never released. This movie, it was thought, had been lost to the world – until now, over 30 years after shooting began.
The story begins in 1970, 13 years after Orson Welles directed Touch of Evil, his final movie for Universal Studios. Following years spent in Europe playing countless cameo roles in other people’s films to raise money for his own, Welles returned, settled in Los Angeles and began shooting The Other Side of the Wind, the story of Jack Hannaford, an ageing director returning from obscurity to direct his final film.
“I’m going to use several voices to tell the story,” Welles told Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show and a champion of Welles from the 1960s on. In Welles’s movie, the film-within-a-film would be shown at a party thrown in Hannaford’s honour. “You hear conversations taped as interviews, and you see quite different scenes going on at the same time. The movie’s going to be made up of all this raw material. You can imagine how daring the cutting can be, and how much fun.”
The role of Hannaford was given to Welles’s friend John Huston. “Orson had come up with an ingenious idea,” Huston wrote in his autobiography, An Open Book. “It was to tell the story through cameras being held in the hands of persons being filmed by the major cameras. The plot concerns a director – my role in the film – who comes to the end of his rope.” Welles always denied any autobiographical intent in this or any other movie, but The Other Side of the Wind has undeniable parallels with his own career.
Having failed to secure funds from Hollywood, Welles shot the film with a skeleton crew between 1970 and 1975. Filming was completed but, according to Welles’s cinematographer Gary Graver, only a few sections were fully edited. Two excerpts were shown when the American Film Institute presented Welles with a lifetime achievement award in 1975, and Huston remembered that after the shooting of the final scenes in Carefree, Arizona, “the incomplete picture was shown to a selected audience. Orson still didn’t have the funds to finish it – they were as fictional as Jack Hannaford. I didn’t get to see it,” he added, tantalisingly, “but those who did tell me it is a knockout.”
Only now does a release in some form look imminent. At last year’s Telluride film festival, Bogdanovich announced that the movie’s backers had finally been brought together to discuss its completion. “I’m not sure it should be released,” he said, “but I believe that it will be released.”
Welles’s inspiration for the movie came from witnessing the entourage that followed Ernest Hemingway around the bullrings of Spain. The real story, however, was to be in the manner of its telling. The Other Side of the Wind is a film within a montage of films that explores, like so many of Welles’s movies, the trajectory of a great man’s life as seen through the eyes of those around him.
There is Hannaford’s film itself, filled with arcane symbolism, nudity and violence, and unlike anything in Hannaford’s Hollywood past – just as The Other Side of the Wind was a departure for Welles. Hannaford’s film is framed by the party, where the director’s life and character unfold through the eyes of camera-toting witnesses – the acolytes, biographers, reporters and critics following Hannaford’s every move, even to the lavatory. A mythology is enacted, suspended somewhere between the old star system and the new celebrity culture. “It’s through these various cameras that the story is told,” Huston recalled. “The changes from one to another – colour, black-and-white, still and moving – made for a dazzling variety of effects.”
Huston was not the only director to act in the film. Others included Claude Chabrol, Dennis Hopper, Henry Jaglom, Bogdanovich – who also supplied his house as a location – and Curtis Harrington, who calls The Other Side of the Wind “the most famous film never released”. Its making was, by all accounts, extraordinary. A young actor – now an astrologer – named Robert Aiken was cast as a left-wing firebrand in the party scenes. “The great man did not so much direct as evoke,” he remembers. “He was a great magician. He would incant. He managed to raise up things that were not really there. He always spoke of the shot or footage in terms of magic or poetry.”
Another witness, Mark Melnick, more or less stumbled into a night shoot and found himself handling a camera and speaking a few lines. He recalls wandering through Bogdanovich’s house, filled with extras and film crew drinking the bar dry before Orson made his awesome entrance in the early hours, clothed in a purple bathrobe. “The crew were young and painfully deferential,” Melnick says. “Orson would nod when asked a question, occasionally pointing a finger imperiously. I never heard him say a word.”
Huston remembered being given speeches he didn’t have to learn (“John,” Welles told him, “just read the lines or forget them and say what you please. The idea is all that matters”). There was a rough story, but no script, at least for the cast. Welles had written four for himself, but what was filmed was very much created in the moment. Welles carried the movie’s historical canvas and character in his head, directing The Other Side of the Wind by taking control of accidents.
“It was such fun working for Welles,” Bogdanovich says. “It didn’t matter what the scene was or what he asked you to do: you would do anything for him – and could. He made you better than you are.” But the creative, convivial atmosphere on and off set was tinged by the director’s fear of the movie slipping through his fingers, as so many others had done.
Filming was continually interrupted so that Welles could raise funds from cameos and talk shows. He spent close to $1m on the picture, while producers and financiers failed him, as they always had. A Spanish producer absconded with $250,000. Money due from Iran vanished with the 1979 revolution.
“I want you to promise you’ll finish the picture for me,” Welles asked a surprised Bogdanovich over lunch one day, early on in the shoot. Welles’s request hangs heavy in the air, and Bogdanovich’s promise has proved hard to keep. Attempts to second-guess the master are likely to fall short, however close to the source people such as Gary Graver or Bogdanovich were. There has been talk of releasing it in documentary form, with as much of the existing footage as possible interspersed with interviews with the actors. But just how much work it needs for release is a moot point.
Graver has his own copy of the film – he and his wife have one of the world’s largest Welles archives – and has shown it at private screenings to a lucky few. One of them is Curtis Harrington. “Graver is trying to set a deal with a US cable channel to pay for the completion of the film,” he says. “It’s all shot – it just needs final editing, sound effects, the final music and the whole production will be finished.” The problems, he adds, are solely to do with the Welles estate. Finally the parties financially involved look close to reaching an agreement.
“What we do come up with has no special right to call itself better,” Welles told his audience at the AFI prizegiving in 1975, where he screened excerpts from The Other Side of the Wind for the first and only time. “It’s just different.” If we are lucky, in the coming months we will find out just how different Welles’s last movie really was.