Harvard and Stefan Drossler present: The Unknown Orson Welles in Cambridge, MA
Ray Kelly, our Wellesnet man in Cambridge sends along this exclusive report on Stefan Drossler's presentation of The Unknown Orson Welles on December 1, 2008 at the Harvard Film Archive
By RAY KELLY
What was billed as a two hour look at the unfinished works of Orson Welles, stretched into a nearly four-hour presentation. There were about 100 people present, similar to the size of the crowd there the night before for the look at Welles’ TV work (according to the gentleman seated behind me). Stefan Drossler of the Munich Film Museum bookended his presentation with a showing of a 1955 episode of Orson Welles Sketch Book and concluded with the 1983 videotaped pitch Welles's made for his film version of King Lear.
Early in the evening, Drossler made it clear that some of Welles lost work may truly be lost. For instance, in processing some 1970's cans of undeveloped footage of Moby Dick revealed only a blue print. The cans are being stored in hopes that a future technology may be able to salvage the footage. The Deep is also fading.
Highlights of the evening included:
THE DEEP – For me this was the highlight of the night. A trailer (similar to the one shown in One Man Band, but much longer) was followed by a color reel of edited footage with sound and music. The footage totaled 18 minutes. Drossler believes it is The Deep, rather than, The Other Side of the Wind, that would have the best chance of being released closest to Welles’s vision. However, it is a low priority for Oja Kodar, who doesn’t want The Deep to compete with OSOTW in the battle to find completion funds. Further, an effort by German and French television to preserve and color correct the footage was nixed by Kodar a few years back over her request for more money. The Munich film Museum has only the work print. The negative of The Deep was apparently destroyed by French customs because of non-payment.
Additionally, dubbing most of the parts in The Deep would be necessary since Welles shot most of the footage with an un-blimped camera. Drossler also noted that Jeanne Moreau had originally acted in The Deep for only a percentage of the profits. However, her experience on the set was not entirely pleasant, since she and Ms. Kodar did not get along. When Welles later asked her to re-dub her lines, Moreau reportedly balked unless payment was forthcoming. Although now Moreau would be willing to help out, her voice is much deeper, so it might need to be dubbed by a younger actress. The other three main actors in the film (Welles, Laurence Harvey, Michael Bryant) are now deceased, so they would also have to be re-dubbed.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND - According to Stefan Drossler, the Showtime deal fell through last year. I questioned him on this and he said he knew only what Oja Kodar had told him. He said that Kodar was still hopeful something could be worked out. Nearly 35 minutes of OSOTW was shown including footage with Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, Joseph McBride and Howard Grossman in car; the screening room scene with studio executive Max and Jake's man Billy (Norman Foster); the party scene with John Huston, Bogdanovich and Susan Strasberg at the AFI tribute special (Huston: "Please dear lady, don't tell us what you mean by that."); Jake blowing out the candles on his 70th birthday cake with Lilli Palmer watching; Henry Jaglom and Paul Masursky debating the merits of Jake Hannaford's movies; the lengthy nude scene with Kodar and Bob Random on the bed; and the car sex scene in the rain. To put it mildly, Drossler is not a fan of OSOTW. He said he saw the two hour rough cut prepared by Gary Graver and he felt it was “horrible.” He thinks that, “to complete the Other Side of the Wind is maybe not the best idea.” He added, “When you see the rapid editing style for two hours, it is hard to stand.” Further, the film-within-a-film footage has no storyline and even Kodar could not explain it to him. Drossler says that, in his opinion, many of the people associated with the film have exaggerated their importance, whether it was their hands on involvement in the making of the movie or claiming Welles entrusted them with the completion of the film.
Many of the complex, edited scenes we have glimpsed from OSOTW would be intercut with other complex edited scenes, according to Drossler. For example, the nine-minute car sex scene (between Kojar and Bob Random) would be inter-cut to the people watching it at Jake's party. Drossler thinks it would be difficult to make the scene work that way. He also is concerned that the some of the OSOTW footage cut by Welles and the original negative may be altered when dealing with Showtime or others. Munich has been promised the OSOTW negative and materials only AFTER the film gets a proper release.
SCRIPT EXCERPT: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND
Featuring Jake Hannaford (John Huston); Brooks Otterlake (Peter Bogdanovich); Juliette Riche (Susan Strasberg).
A WINDOW IN THE PROJECTION ROOM (at Jake's Ranch house)
OTTERLAKE stands looking in at the FILM being projected for the guests...
A CAMERAMAN (to Otterlake): Hey – put Hannaford there... THERE,
where your’re standing.
OTTERLAKE (grinning, to Jake): Come on, cooperate...
JAKE : What for?
THE CAMERAMAN: The reflection in the glass – The face
and the film inside – a real Hannaford set-up!
During this OTTERLAKE has laughingly urged JAKE into place. Now, as the camera turns, he fills in the lull with a quotation:
OTTERLAKE: “These, your actors, were all spirits –
and are melted into air.. Into thin air.”
JAKE has started a long pull at his drink but is interrupted by the voice of JULIETTE RICHE:
JULIETTE RICHE: Tatum, Fryer, Leigh... Branch Sutter.
JAKE smiles at her... Then, after a short silence:
JAKE : Absent friends.
JULIETTE RICHE: And John Dale... All made by you...
Funny. We don’t see one of those men tonight at your party.
JAKE: Tonight is for the freaks and snoops,
lady – If you’ll excuse us, please...
OTTERLAKE: Why don’t you go in and see the movie,
lady – like every body else?
They wait for her to go. She does.
JAKE: “Thin air...”
OTTERLAKE: “And like the baseless fabric of this vision, shall dissolve...” Did you know they had dissolves in Shakespeare?
(playing it up a little for the benefit of the camera)
Sure he does: he knows everything in Shakespeare: “The Hannaford family curse -”
JAKE: And he knows everything about the
Hannafords... that’s MY curse...
OTTERLAKE: We all know about old Grandad, Junius
the first – “The great Irish tragedian
in the tinseled toga -”
JAKE: The Shakespeare comes from him, all right.
OTTERLAKE: Handed down, with a few other things –
“Booze and the Bard” – Right? As for
the booze part of it – Well, if he hasn’t
quite made it as a rummy – nobody can say
he hasn’t tried!
JAKE: I’m seeing little pink directors at this
OTTERLAKE: But Junius – Ah, “there was a most
distinguished souse”... Another line of yours.
JAKE: That’s what’s so nice about Brooksie –
I don’t have to repeat myself, he does it for me...
OTTERLAKE: (continuing to quote)
“...A noble Roma shanty Irishman;
Sure, even when he cut his wrists and
killed himself...” (looking around)
We’ve lost our camera haven’t we?
JAKE: You’re losing me.
OTTERLAKE : “Like Seneca, old Junius bled to death
in a bathtub – one of the few times he ever
sat in one. But Junius JUNIOR -” (that’s
YOUR daddy) “he even made it into High
Society – a pioneer among the micks,
blazing the trail for the Kellys and the
Kennedys... Piss elegant. He chose the
JAKE: A human tape-recorder
OTTERLAKE: That’s me, Skipper.
JAKE: I didn’t know you had the chandelier.
OTTERLAKE: I’ve got everything. In the old Hollywood
Hotel it was... They found him, one Sunday
morning, hanging from it. After which you had
to go to work for a living... As a prop man
DON QUIXOTE – Twenty-five minutes of mostly silent footage was shown. The Munich Film Museum is in possession of an 80-minute silent work print. They have eight minutes of sound footage. According to Drossler, the 10-year legal battle between Mauro Bonnani and Oja Kodar over the footage in Italy drags on. He said the original negative was seized by the Italian police while the two sides remain at odds. Drossler made it clear he has no affection for the Jess Franco assembly.
THE DREAMERS – A 25-minute short comprised of all of the existing test footage Welles shot (by Gary Graver) was in wonderful condition. Welles’s extensive monologue filled in the holes of scenes that were never filmed. A mix of color and black and white footage, it was easy to see why folks like Jonathan Rosenbaum raved over this.