Orson Welles Returns With a “New” Film—And You Can See It on the Big Screen

Although it’s also going up on Netflix on Friday, it’s difficult to imagine not having the opportunity to watch a “new” (or at least unreleased) Orson Welles film on the big screen. So in Chicago, for two screenings only, The Other Side of the Wind will screen in 35mm at the Music Box Theater on Saturday, Nov. 3 and Sunday, Nov. 4 at 11am.

Other Side of the Wind
Image courtesy of Music Box Theatre

One of the most anticipated film curiosities in cinematic history, this unfinished work by Welles—shot in fits and spurts between 1970 and 1976—has finally been pieced together by a technical team that includes Oscar-winning editor Bob Murawski (The Hurt Locker) and composer Michel Legrand, who gives it a new score. For better or worse, the finished product is a bit of a mess, but it’s also bold, highly watchable (and yes, it is entirely possible to be both messy and watchable) and an absolute condemnation by Welles of a Hollywood that cast him aside while still claiming to admire his early works.

John Huston plays Jake Hannaford, who returns from years in a self-imposed exile in Europe with the hopes of making his big comeback film. He’s surrounded by sycophants (led by young filmmaker Brooks Otterlake, played by Welles prodigy Peter Bogdanovich); reporters seek an exclusive interview (including Pauline Kael stand-in Susan Strasberg). Welles’ co-writer (and romantic partner at the time) Oja Kodar also stars as an object of Hannaford’s affections. The film is a cacophony of overlapping dialogue, non-sequiturs, bland humor and a mixed bag of performances. It’s a fascinating but ultimately messy and ugly affair that, nevertheless, might be too much of a discovery and curiosity to pass up.

I was fortunate enough to see The Other Side of the Wind as part of a double-bill withThey’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, the new documentary from Morgan Neville (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) about the troubled production. That film will also be on Netflix, and it’s really impossible to believe that an audience could get a complete sense of what the Welles’ film is about without it.

So my recommendation is to watch the Neville doc on Friday, then go see Welles’ work over the weekend, if you’re so inclined. And that should take care of your film history lesson for the month.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.