Orson Welles’s Unseen Masterpiece Is Set For Release

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There are few more tantalizing stories than those of unfinished films from the greatest of directors. When it’s a director of Orson Welles’ stature, the stories only get bigger, the films more legendary.

According to the Guardian, an unfinished film by Orson Welles (described as a masterpiece) will finally see a theatrical release nearly four decades later. The movie titled, The Other Side of the Wind, portrays the last hours of an ageing film director. Welles is said to have told John Huston, who plays the lead role: “It’s about a bastard director… full of himself, who catches people and creates and destroys them. It’s about us, John.”

Like many of Welles’s movies, the film had a troubled production history and was funded by him personally. Welles spent several years between 1969 and 1972 filming and editing the production. The majority of the film was shot in Peter Bogdanovich’s own Beverly Hills house, which Welles stayed in for nearly two years, and which doubles as Hannaford’s house during the party scenes.

The film features John Huston as Jake Hannaford, an aging Hollywood director modeled on Ernest Hemingway, and opens on his 70th birthday party following several conversations as a framing device for the plot. The stories run back and forth chronologically over his life in a non-linear narrative until Hannaford drunkenly drives his sports car through the desert, and dies.

Apparently the film is a pre-cursor in ways to the found footage genre, since the central framing device, is in the perspective of many of the journalists attending, who are all brandishing cameras. The film also features A film-within-a-film, and at times mimics a mockumentary style.

The Guardian reports:

“The unedited film has been hidden away in a vault until now amid doubts that it could ever be shown. Rumours of its release have surfaced repeatedly since it was shot in 1972, but an ownership dispute has always scuppered any plans.”

However, a Los Angeles lawyer told the Observer last week that the film will finally be seen. Kenneth Sidle, a lawyer involved in the dispute over rights to the film, said: “We are in negotiations for the picture, which would lead to the finishing and public exhibition. Hopefully within the next few weeks we will know.”

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