There are several unfinished and/or lost movies that take on a degree of legend as the years pass. For me personally, I long for the day to actually see Lon Chaney Sr.’s influential, silent vampire drama, London After Midnight (1927). Yet perhaps one of the most iconic is The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles’ final picture that he left undone when he passed away in 1985. A mysterious and apparently satirically mocking project, the movie boasted a cast that included John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, and Susan Strasberg. It also was an effort Welles labored over shooting from 1970 to 1976. But it was never completed.
Until now. Indeed, the long tumultuous journey of completing the Citizen Kane director’s last picture has had ups and downs, legal battles, and creative differences over how to put the pieces together. But since 2014, it looked like it might actually happen. Legendary producers Frank Marshall (who was a line producer on The Other Side of the Wind), Bogdanovich himself, and Filip Jan Rymsza had secured the rights to buckets of footage and attempted to raise over $2 million to pay for the completion of the film on Indiegogo… but then nothing came of it after the producers only raised $406,000 on the crowdfunding site.
Since then, they had gone dark about finding another backer, but now taking to The New York Times, we know exactly who that mysterious new financier turned out to be: Netflix. The producers announced Tuesday that they have completed a deal that will allow them to finally complete Welles’ vision (at least by their best approximation) for the streaming service.
“This is a labor of love and a gift to the legacy of one of history’s greatest directors,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix, in a statement.
The actual concept of The Other Side of the Wind is riddled with fascinating possibilities. Apparently conceived as a critique of avant garde filmmakers, it tells the story of a dying nonconformist director named Jake Hannaford. Before he passes, he invites guests to his home to view a final film, which will be as much a piece of the movie as the varying type of camera techniques and styles executed by his guests, who are encouraged to record the events with their own cameras.
Now we’ll finally see what they all caught—on a digital streaming service no less. Film may not be going anywhere, but if you want further proof of the power of streaming, and the changing forms of exhibition norms, look no further than this.