What became of The Other Side of the Wind, that crazy movie that took up the last 15 years of the life of Orson Welles (1915-1985)?
Karp (A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever, 2006, etc.) puts that question to rest with this hilarious and sobering saga of one of the greatest films never finished. Almost from its official start in 1970, the last project by Welles was a shape-shifting obsession, rumored as much for its alleged uniqueness as for its constant and (so far) permanent delay. On the surface, it sounds exciting: an 8½ -style story of a troubled director (played by John Huston) trying to finish a movie; a neo–Godard-ian narrative, shot in a variety of formats; a seemingly Cubist editing style, “reducing each take into little bits of film and then creating a new continuity within each scene.” It was meant to be both spontaneously brilliant and efficient, proof that the famously “troublesome” director could deliver a film on time and under budget. Instead, shooting ballooned from weeks to years upon years, during which it was cast and recast, shot and reshot, edited and re-edited; people were routinely hired, fired and rehired as they watched their careers consumed in the process. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the incomplete film—partly financed by the shah of Iran’s brother-in-law—officially entered purgatory. Ever since then, family, heirs and financiers have been fighting for control.
Luckily, there’s nothing unfinished in Karp’s retelling. He follows every story, dollar and last legal battle in full detail. Whether the film sees a 2015 release on the anniversary of Welles’ birth, as was speculated as of late last year, we at least have Karp to thank for the next best thing.