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“Well here it is, if anybody wants to see it,” snarls Norman Foster, hauling a stack of film cans onto a counter, somewhere towards the last third of “The Other Side of the Wind.” And, after seeing what’s been made of this half century aborning “passion project,” assembled by a host of dedicated craftspersons from the countless reels of footage, that its perpetrator Orson Welles never managed to pull it into shape is a question easily answered. For “The Other Side of the Wind” is an unmitigated disaster. Less “unfinished” than barely begun — a premise without a narrative, a beginning without an ending or even a middle. As a result Morgan Nevill’s documentary about Welles and his film, “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead,” makes more sense than anything that’s been assembled as “The Other Side of the Wind.” Welles’ artistic history has always been chaotic with great highs, deep lows and little clarity overall. When his fame in theater and radio brought him to Hollywood’s attention, Welles was given carte blanche by RKO studios to make “Citizen Kane,” the darkly satirical film a clef about newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. While the screenplay, written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and re-written by Welles won the Oscar, it gained little glory in its time. Over the years however it came to be regarded as a classic. As a director Welles worked sporadically on films of very different kinds made in very different circumstances. “The Lady From Shanghai” (1947) and “Touch of Evil” (1958) were made for major Hollywood studios, Columbia and Universal. “Macbeth” (1948) for Republic. But “Othello” (1951), “Mr. Arkadin” (1955), “The Trial” (1962), “Chimes at Midnight” (1965), “The Immortal Story” (1968) and “F For Fake” (1973) were all made in Europe without the financial and technical resources afforded by Hollywood, and “Arkadin” was wrested away from him and recut by others more severely than his Hollywood films. Consequently while an artist of international reputation Welles longed to return to U.S. to make a film -- but on his own terms. Making “The Other Side of the Wind” encapsulated all his hopes of doing so — and all the traps as well. The film centers on a “Maverick” director named “Jake Hanneford” (played with his usual breezy charm by John Huston) who after a long sojourn in Europe (guess who, hint, hint) has returned stateside for a birthday celebration bringing together all manner of close friends, acolytes and sycophants that he hopes will help him complete a film he started called “The Other Side of the Wind.” That much is clear, but the rest is a decided blur. And the name of that blur is Oja Kodar. While Welles began his career working with screenwriting veteran Mankiewicz, he elected to end it with an amateur, Kodar. A Croatian-born actress who he met while filming “The Trial” she quickly became the center of his personal and professional life , most notably in “F For Fake.” That Kodar would star in “Wind” was no surprise. But what takes one aback is the fact that she has no lines of dialogue. She’s seen in the film-with-the-film (which is also called “The Other Side of the Wind”) traipsing around in the semi and sometimes complete altogether. Most of her scenes involve her having simulated and rather desultory sex with a young actor (Robert Random, a passingly attractive blank) who we learn left the film-within-the-film when its director “Jake Hanneford” made a pass at him. This circumstance, most likely inspired by John Ford (who Maureen O’Hara once caught in a compromising position with Tyrone Power) leads one inevitably to consider the role the same-sex oriented have played throughout Welles’ life and career — which is considerable. Right at the start are Micheal MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards, the acting couple who gave Welles his first break at the Abbey Theater in Dublin Ireland. Welles memorably cast MacLiammoir as Iago in “Othello” and MacLiammoir went on to write an account of the film’s making “Put Money in Thy Purse” that remains one of the best books written about Welles. And then there are the gay fictional characters that dot the Welles oeuvre: Glenn Anders sinister “George Grisby” in “The Lady From Shanghai,” Mercedes McCambridge’s lesbian gang leader in “Touch of Evil” and the young Prince Hal and his boytoy Pons in “Chimes at Midnight” (which inspired Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho”). And so doubtless would the closeted “Jake Hanneford” had Welles been up to making sense of “The Other Side of the Wind” and completing it. Continues at

Gone With ‘The Wind’ of Orson Welles A legendary filmmaker’s most personal work By DAVID EHRENSTEIN


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