The History of ‘The Other Side of the Wind’

Behind the scenes of the set of The Other Side of the Wind. Photo courtesy of wellesnet.com1

Jeff Turner 

The trailer for Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind was recently released. This was the cinema legend’s final effort, and was previously believed to be unfinished.

Welles completed the shooting of the film, but had been unable to get the funding to finish the editing. Welles’ friends continued to edit the film after his death in 1985, but the editing work was only recently completed by Netflix, who bought the rights to the film in March 2017.

The film is now being screened in festivals and is poised for a release on the streaming service on November 2nd.

The Other Side of the Wind follows director Jake Hannaford (John Huston) as he attempts to revive his career with a flashy movie replete with gratuitous sex and violence. The film is being described as an “unconventional mockumentary” using both scenes of color and black and white.

Huston talked about this style at the time, saying that it was told through multiple cameras that change from, black and white, still and moving. The dialogue was also heavily improvised, per Welles instruction.

Welles denied behind the scenes that Hannaford had been based on Huston or himself. Welles had the idea for what would eventually become The Other Side of the Wind shortly after the suicide of Ernest Hemingway; who is almost certainly the primary basis for Hannaford.

It was a long journey. Welles shot the film from 1970 to 1976 and many have said that was a big part of the reason the movie never got done.

“Though he (Welles) tried to do things inexpensively and tended to count the pennies, the dollars were usually a problem because he didn’t always know where they went,” wrote Josh Karp, author of Orson Welles’ Last Movie: Making of the Other Side of the Wind.

“Compounding matters further is that – on The Wind – Orson was living in the homes where he filmed, usually because it would represent an overall cost saving to the production,” Karp wrote. “It also, however, made for a murky situation where it was difficult to tell which money was for rent, cigars and other living expenses; and which were being used for filmmaking purposes.”

When Citizen Kane debuted, it eclipsed anything else Welles was involved with. One of the most popular videos of Welles on Youtube is called “Orson Welles Drunk Outtake,” painting Welles as a drunken fool, a man who peaked early and couldn’t cope with the success.

In many ways this is reflected in a lot of his work, to Chimes at Midnight to what we know of The Other Side of the Wind, and to even Kane itself. Welles made his legacy on the ebb and flow of the individual, because in these men’s falls from grace, he saw his own.

Despite all the chaos, The Other Side of the Wind made its Venice Film Festival debut with a strong reception, earning a 93 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

The completion of The Other Side of the Wind represents a turning point for Netflix, Welles’ legacy and cinema at large. The actual film will be available for critique on November 2nd on Netflix’s streaming service.