The recent showing of Stefan Drossler’s rare “Unknown Welles” material at The Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, brought out a large contingent of Bay area film scholars, including Joseph McBride, the author of many books on Welles, Tom Luddy, the former director of The San Francisco Film Festival, and current director of The Telluride Film Festival, Fantoma DVD president James Healy, SF film writer Meredith Brody, and Jonathan Marlow, the director of The San Francisco Cinematheque.
There were also several members of the audience who indicated they has flown up from Los Angeles, specifically for the opportunity to see this rare Welles material.
The two programs Stefan presented lasted over five hours, but I was personally most delighted to see the rough cut of The Other Side of the Wind that was shown in a special "after hours" session for a select group of Welles scholars.
So, in the grand tradition of Arthur Bannister, here is an Auto-interview about The Other Side of the Wind:
Do you think The Other Side of the Wind is a potential Welles's masterpiece?
In my own personal opinion, I would say the answer has to be a resounding YES! There are scenes that far exceed anything in Welles work after Chimes at Midnight.
You must be kidding? I thought it was considered far too experimental, or even worse, quite boring by most people who have seen it.
I've heard the same stories, but I saw the film long after midnight and it held me in awe. It had scenes of lyrical beauty, great acting and is filmed in beautiful color contrasted with rich black and white. Now, you may also recall that Welles's Chimes at Midnight The Trial and Touch of Evil also had the same kind of things said about them. The New York Times for instance thought that Chimes at Midnight was a total disaster! And every studio in Hollywood turned down Welles script for The Dreamers, one of the most poetic scripts I've ever read! So if we let the so-called "experts" like David Thomson decide that The Other Side of the Wind shouldn't be finished, it certainly never will be.
So you you really think it can be edited and shown?
Of course it can! Given the footage I’ve now seen, and having carefully studied the script, which I regard as a brilliant piece of work, I not only believe it can be finished, but I regard it as an artistic crime that it hasn't been finished!
What kind of money is needed to finish the project, and is Showtime still involved?
Showtime has been very supportive of the project, but over the years have run into many unexpected difficulties. Which is why I believe everyone who would like the film finished should certainly write directly to Showtime and voice their support for the project. Needless to say, the executives at Showtime are to be thanked for standing by the project after so many years, despite all the setbacks they have encountered. If the film finally gets completed, I believe Matthew Duda will have a lasting legacy behind him that will certainly make him remembered for a long time.
Oh come on? I can't think of any TV executives who are known to film buffs... Well, maybe one, that stupid idiot James Aubrey who ran CBS in the 60's
Yes, Mr. Aubrey is sometimes remembered, just like George W. Bush will be remembered... but unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. Welles’s even noted that Aubrey's nick-name was the “Smiling Cobra.” He was also the man who shut down MGM, ironically at the very time Welles was shooting The Other Side of the Wind on the MGM back lot. Shortly afterwards, Aubrey took MGM out of the business of making movies.
Given all the problems Showtime has encountered with the film, why are they still involved?
I'd like to think it's because they realize the historic importance of this project. Which is why I'd like to personally extend my thanks to Showtime's Matthew Duda, who has gone far beyond the call of duty in standing by this film. To be honest, it's quite a daunting proposal. If it does get completed, it may very well be viciously attacked by the enemies of Welles, or those who won't invest the time needed to understand what Welles was attempting to do. On the other hand, if the film is well-received, it's quite possible that Mr. Duda may go down in cinematic history as the Dore Schary of his era. Mr. Schary, of course, was the enlightened head of MGM in the 50's, who brought Welles old partner John Houseman to MGM to produce a series of memorable movies for the studio, including Julius Caesar and Lust for Life.)
How does The Other Side of the Wind compare in relation to the other Welles unfinished projects?
I'd say it's the most interesting and exciting unfinished Welles work out there. The risks in trying to finish the project are great, but I dare say, the rewards will be far more exciting than any other unfinished project by Welles, including The Deep and Don Quixote. As Jake Hannaford says, those other films are "Less than the dust from my chariot wheels."
I'll drink to that!
So will I, when and if the film gets completed! And to help back up my rather grandiose statements, I'd like to present two excerpts from The Other Side of the Wind. The first is from the original screenplay, the second is the same scene from the continuity script, that records the scene exactly as it was filmed and edited by Welles. In most movies, these two documents are not that different, but reflect the small changes in concept that occur when a director shoots what the screenwriter has written. However, in Welles case, he made a great many changes to his own script, due no doubt to the circumstances, the budget, his lack of actors, or simply because a better idea presented itself to him while he was shooting or editing the material.
These two scenes clearly demonstrate the creative genius of Orson Welles, as both a director and film editor, just in case anyone actually needed such evidence.
This sequence also features some stand-out performances from the actors involved, so it should be noted that three of the performers had already won Academy Awards. Huston's was for directing, but he gives a performance that easily surpasses his work as an actor in The Cardinal or Chinatown.
John Huston plays Jake Hannaford
Edmund O’ Brien plays Pat
Mercedes McCambridge plays Maggie
Also giving standout performances are:
Lilli Palmer as Zarah Veleska
Susan Strasberg as Juliette Riche
Cameron Mitchell as Zimmer