Was com­pleted and re­leased

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young pro­tégé. When he re­turned to Cal­i­for­nia in 1969, the bull­fighter be­came a film direc­tor, al­low­ing Or­son to ex­pand his film into a play­ful cri­tique of the in­dus­try that had in­vented and half-de­stroyed him.

Film­ing be­gan in 1970, af­ter Welles had cast his old friend John Hus­ton as Jake Han­naford, the bul­ly­ing mono­ma­niac at the cen­tre of the movie.

Han­naford, des­per­ate to be taken se­ri­ously by his peers, has made a slow-mov­ing, pompous art movie which ap­pears in long ex­cerpts in Welles’ film and was in­tended as a pas­tiche of An­to­nioni. But at a party for his 70th birth­day, Han­naford’s guests mock him be­hind his back, while he him­self pur­sues an ac­tor he’s ob­sessed with and is pur­sued by a shrewish film jour­nal­ist who was surely modelled on Pauline Kael, not a critic dear to Or­son’s heart.

Welles shot those party scenes boldly and bril­liantly, arm­ing his guests with 8mm cam­eras to al­low for mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives. By 1972, he claimed that “96pc” of the film was in the can, but as usual he was spoof­ing, and prin­ci­pal photography didn’t con­clude un­til Jan­uary, 1976.

By that point, un­for­tu­nately, other prob­lems had arisen. Though his ex­pe­ri­ences as a guerilla au­teur in Europe had taught him to shoot fast and make do, Or­son had al­ways been ter­ri­ble with money. And while ini­tially he’d used his and his part­ner Oja Ko­dar’s money to fund the shoot, he was even­tu­ally forced to find other back­ers.

The film’s co-pro­ducer, Do­minique An­toine, be­gan ne­go­ti­a­tions with an Ira­nian busi­ness­man, who turned out to be the Shah’s brother-in-law. A Span­ish as­so­ciate would be the go-be­tween, and the Ira­ni­ans agreed to front up $250,000. But as the months passed and the Spa­niard kept com­ing back empty handed, even the fi­nan­cially gullible Welles be­gan to smell a rat.

That greedy go-be­tween is al­leged to have been the pro­ducer An­drés Vi­cente Gómez, who has al­ways de­nied mak­ing off with the Ira­nian dough. What­ever hap­pened to it, Welles was left with­out the money to edit his film in the com­plex and ex­pen­sive way he’d wanted. And in 1979, when the Shah of Iran was de­posed, the Ay­a­tol­lah’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary government claimed own­er­ship of the only com­plete and pristine print. So did the French government, which would have been more in­clined to re­turn it to Or­son, but in­stead a messy stale­mate left the film — and its maker — in limbo.

I re­mem­ber as a child see­ing a fat man dressed in black wan­der across the screen of our Tele­funken mut­ter­ing ami­ably about sherry. “Who is he?” I asked my dad. “Or­son Welles,” he said. I sought no clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

In the last decade of his life, Or­son be­came a show pony, do­ing TV ads and turn­ing up on chat shows to tell tall tales about his film-mak­ing ad­ven­tures. He chewed cigars and wore a Mephisto beard and seemed like a par­ody of the ge­nius artist. And all the while, he tin­kered away at an in­com­plete print of the film he hoped would even­tu­ally see the light of day.

Peter Bog­danovich, who put him up in his Bev­erly Hills man­sion for two years and would be­come a kind of Saint Peter to Or­son’s Je­sus, later said that Welles once made him prom­ise that, if he died, the young direc­tor would do all in his power to en­sure that The Other Side of the Wind was com­pleted and re­leased.

Bog­danovich can­not have known how very long that would take, but must now be im­mensely sat­is­fied with the large part he played in sav­ing the film. But Welles never got to see it play, and must have wor­ried that it would join the long list of projects he’d started and left un­fin­ished.

In­cred­i­bly, for a man who started his di­rect­ing ca­reer at 25, Or­son Welles only com­pleted 13 fea­tures. He was an ar­ro­gant, grandiose char­ac­ter, not al­ways easy to deal with, but Hol­ly­wood did a ter­ri­ble job of it. The bril­liance with which he’d shot to fame by co-writ­ing, di­rect­ing, pro­duc­ing and star­ring in the in­stant mas­ter­piece Cit­i­zen Kane was never for­got­ten, also never forgiven, and from the very start, Tin­sel­town was brim­ming with en­e­mies keen to see him fail.

In 1970, when Or­son was given a life­time achieve­ment Os­car by the Acad­emy, John Hus­ton took to the stage at the Os­cars to accept it in his col­league’s stead. “I’ll drop this off to Or­son in Spain on my way back to Ireland,” Hus­ton said. But Welles was a cou­ple of miles away, in Bev­erly Hills, hiding out but prob­a­bly watch­ing, com­plexed as ever about what Hol­ly­wood thought of him. It would ig­nore Welles point­edly un­til the bit­ter end.

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