If you know anything about Orson Welles, you know he probably wasn’t a grand delight to work with. Known for his epic shooting schedules, tortured editing battles with studios, and eventual dropping off the face of the earth into obscurity (and obesity) in the years before he died, Welles was the kind of genius that really couldn’t fucking play ball.
That’s probably why his films, made well over 70 years ago, stand up so well today.
Unfortunately, many of Welles’ films were subject to studio re-cuts and general waterings-down (RIP, Magnificent Ambersons) which is why we’re prevented from seeing them in their best light. Some of them we’re prevented from seeing at all, like the magnificent Chimes at Midnight, Welles’ stab at Henry V’s Falstaff, which was only given a wide DVD release last year, after years of restoration.
Welles’ final film, The Other Side of the Wind, also suffered such a fate. Starring John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, and Susan Strasberg, Wind was filmed as a mockumentary send-up of both old Hollywood conventions and European New Wave pretensions. And it was apparently…rather sexy. As in, some sex scenes and dildos and and a Turkish bath scene.
So yeah, you can imagine how it wasn’t really the film anybody wanted to deal with in 1976. As sexy and experimental as things were getting in the mid-70s in Hollywood, there were still a few conventions in place. Like, don’t dwell on male nudity (or show it at all) and keep the pointless sex and violence to a minimum, unless it’s tied to some grand pretentious point about Kids These Days (see: Bonnie and Clyde.)
Forty years later, we’re about to The Other Side of the Wind in all its naked, phallic splendor, and we really couldn’t be happier about it. Perhaps now Welles can finally stop turning in his grave, the poor guy.