The (Possibly) Great Unfinished Films – The Other Side of the Wind

(This will be an ongoing feature detailing some of the great unfinished works in cinema.  This feature will be delegated only to films that had actually begun shooting at one point.  So no Kubrick’s Napoleon here.)


The Other Side of the Wind (1972? 2010?)

Dir. Orson Welles

What unfinished films list would be complete without the king of unfinished films himself, Orson Welles?  Welles had countless unfinished films throughout his career, a tireless perfectionist who would shoot and shoot until the money ran out, then would attempt to find more financers to finish his various opuses.  Of course, not liking to sit still for too long, waiting for that money to come in simply meant moving on to the next project, and so on… So I could pick any film out of this bunch, (which, by the way, are all covered in the superb documentary, Orson Welles – The One-Man Band, which I’ve linked to previously, but here goes again.), but The Other Side of the Wind seems to be having a happy ending of sorts lately.

Welles began shooting what would be his final film in the late 1960s, featuring Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdonovich, Oja Kodar, and John Huston, and by the end of the 70s, Welles had finished editing 40 minutes of the film.  Ten years in the making, it looked like the film was in good shape and ya know, given Welles’ pace, could’ve even been out by 1985!  But alas, legal troubles began, sinking the film’s financial backing and causing the film to sit in a vault in Paris for decades.

There are two scenes that have been shown publicly from this film, one involving Oja Kodar and Bob Random having sex in a car that shows that Welles never lost his flair for innovative visual style and editing techniques, resulting in a scene both sexy, and of course, incredibly creepy.  It does date the film back to the 1960s, when the film was conceived, as it adopts many of the traits that American counter-culture film was known for, specifically jumpy editing and, like, totally trippy lights and shit… However, it’s the other scene that I find even more fascinating; it involves famed film directors Peter Bogdonovich and John Huston, both playing what seems to be versions of themselves, embarking on a battle of wits with a film critic, played by Susan Strasberg.  They play off each other, with the press beaming on, as they alternately shift between criticizing the critic and each other’s work, an intellectual, elitist fencing match.

It’s a scene that makes me really ponder what Welles’ vision for this film was, as the two scenes could not be more different from one another, yet hint at a very interesting mash of techniques that adopt the new American ideal of the 1970s, while embracing a post-modernist style that wouldn’t really gel in film until, oh, the late 1980s or so.  It appears as though Welles had not lost his sense of prankster-ism, also evident in his last actually finished film, the brilliant F For Fake.  If nothing else, the man that people had always admired for Citizen Kane, but increasingly tossed aside for decades had only refined his style more, tirelessly experimenting until the day he died.  Even though he made quite possibly the most influential film of all time, he treated his whole output like he was a student, always willing to, well, dick around until something gelled.

And now the good news.  In 1998, Showtime and Peter Bogdonovich had resurrected the film, promising that they would put up money to finish the film, for the sake of film history.  Of course, this was 11 years ago, still no film.  Showtime had been hit with more legal complications, and the project had been put on hold even further.  But as recently as last year, Peter Bogdonovich still states that the film is almost completed, and Showtime in fact still claims they will put up the money required, albeit with some fuzzy speculation as to whether the resources and materials still exist.  Bogdonovich, however, still has hope that as soon as Cannes 2010, the film will be screened, and that work never stopped on this film.  Here’s to hoping Welles’ vision is intact.  (Unlike a certain released version of Welles’ Don Quixote, which we won’t go into here.)

Oh, and what the hell… Here’s some car sex.


~ by febriblog on July 30, 2009.

5 Responses to “The (Possibly) Great Unfinished Films – The Other Side of the Wind”

  1. I picked up the screenplay to this in Brussels, published by the Cahiers Du cinema, and remember finding it really curious. The mish mash of styles you mention is because the car sex scene is a part of a film within the film, made by the John Huston- director figure.

    The whole film takes place on the night where he brings loads of journalists to his house to showcase his latest work, and debates rage as to whether he’s washed up, manipulative, or even a closet gay. It seemed from the screenplay that all the jouralists would have cameras and the film would be a documentary style cutting between these perspectives, as they wander about the house. Bogdanovich played a new director who’s meant to be a rising star and slavishly follows the old director (which was eerily reminiscent of him and Welles), and it’s often hinted he’s only tolerated because he can draw in money.

    All in all, just from the screenplay, it’s such a shame it wasn’t released at the time. A lot of it’s innovations have now already been done.

  2. Actually, FILMING OTHELLO (1977) is Welles’ last completed film in which the director essays on Shakespeare and his own film version of OTHELLO (1952).

    Also, over a half hour of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND footage has been shown publicly as part of the Munich Film Museum’s “Scenes From ‘The Other Side of The Wind'” compilation. In addition to the scenes already mentioned, moments that have seen the light of day include Huston’s character Hannaford racing his sports car to get to his own birthday party on time (with a documentary sound man clinging for dear life to the trunk of the car), Hannaford’s right hand man trying to explain rushes from the film-within-the-film to a studio head (intercut with scenes from Hannaford’s film), Hannaford demeaning his lead actor during the filming of a sex scene and various improvised dialogue scenes among guests at Hannford’s birthday party.

  3. Man, I hope you’re right. I’ve been waiting for this film for a long time.

  4. Thanks so much for the insight into the context in which these scenes take place. I hope we get the privilege to see this unique film, as I’m positive it will be another fascinating contribution to the Welles’ canon.

  5. Thank you for details. It helped me in my task

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