How Hollywood Made a “New” Orson Welles Movie More Than 30 Years After the Legendary Filmmaker’s Death

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How Hollywood Made a “New” Orson Welles Movie More Than 30 Years After the Legendary Filmmaker’s Death

How Hollywood Made a “New” Orson Welles Movie More Than 30 Years After the Legendary Filmmaker’s Death

In the whole of Hollywood, few filmmakers are as revered as the late Orson Welles.  Making his filmmaking debut at the age of 25 (in part because of his now-infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast, in which he convinced everyday Americans that the country was being invaded by honest-to-God Martians), he hit the ground running with not just a great American movie, but THE great American movie.  Citizen Kane (1941), which many still consider to be the definitive best movie ever made, is a groundbreaking film about the pitfalls of fame and fortune and the dangers that success pose to the human condition.

He immediately followed that success with The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), another commonly cited “best movie of all time” whose last-minute mangling by the studio remains one of the great tragedies of the medium.  Over his stories career, ending in 1986 when he voiced Unicron in The Transformers: The Movie, Welles proved to be one of the most fascinating, ambitious and all-around best filmmakers to ever work in the industry.  And now, in the year of our Lord 2018, more than thirty years after the man died, we have an honest-to-God new Orson Welles movie in the pipeline.

How Hollywood Made a “New” Orson Welles Movie More Than 30 Years After the Legendary Filmmaker’s Death

The new movie in question is The Other Side of the Wind: a film which began production in 1970 and remained in various states of completion for the almost fifty years since.  Simple enough in premise, The Other Side of the Wind was a black-and-white mockumentary lampooning the stylings and sensibilities of the New Hollywood movement that began in the late 1960s.  It was hardly Welles’ most creatively ambitious nor most narratively complex project ever, but promised a fascinating look into how the veteran filmmaker thought of his up-and-coming contemporaries before their place in history was firmly established by their radical new brand of filmmaking.

So what happened?  Why did it take so long for this movie to wrap up after its long-ago production?  Why are we finally seeing it for the first time in the here-and-now?

How Hollywood Made a “New” Orson Welles Movie More Than 30 Years After the Legendary Filmmaker’s Death

Well, that’s something of a political matter.  One of the financiers of the film was Mehdi Bushehri, the brother-inplaw to the then-Iranian ruler Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.  When the Shah was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the new ruler had all of the previous government’s assets — including the incomplete film — put under lock and key.  It remained there for years, before a series of complex and rather unorthodox legal negotiations saw it make real traction toward completion and eventual release: an event that finally happened last week during the Venice International Film Festival.

Word on the new film is rather mixed, to say the least.  While many are ecstatic to finally see the film (in any form), others are less enthused.  Some have lambasted it as nothing more than a rough-cut of a still-incomplete film.  Then again, it’s not every day you get to see a new Orson Welles movie.

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