It is no fantasy to believe that humans exist in their own circumstance due to the difficulty that they produce. Fastidiously following paths that eventually disappear beneath them into the desolation of total wilderness. The only thing rock solid beneath them is a determination to carry on towards that self-serving goal ever in the distance. At a certain point in life one’s inner boiler runs out of steam as nothing can last forever especially when it is attempting to continue in a framework where other means of that compete with it evolve to replace it. In human terms that is considered being out of touch. In cinema certain figures are royally celebrated for the innovation that they provided as a direction for others. But equally many of these same figures provide one with sad stories of trying to outlast their usefulness and fall into a sense of self-inspired perdition, the efforts driving that impulse propelling them downward and tarnishing their fundamental reputations. Examples of this might come by the way of the D.W. Griffith’s and John Gilbert’s in what was for some that fatal gap between silent and sound based films. Some persons alternatively have the good sense to know when to make a graceful exit and call it a day. Some that have fought a decades long struggle to erase their fall from grace from the mainstream have not. Enter the case of Orson Welles and that albatross hovering over his reputation that at a certain point he was unable to finish a film.
The post Hollywood era of Welles’ career found him more than usually supporting his own cinematic visions by prostituting himself as an actor and notable personality in very creative ways. In fact even building up his persona in terms of currency far beyond his initial formidable achievements of the Mercury Theater and the RKO produced Citizen Kane and Magnificent Amberson’s benchmarks. The problem being that the last two decades of his life were embroiled in attempting to top these achievements in terms of a similar scale bereft of Hollywood resources. Trying to work on a shoestring budget using any and all available talent in shooting scenes in a scattered and haphazard manner all of which that were essentially dependent upon his imagination of the moment rather than derived from a visually well-managed screenplay. The incessant editing by him over the years in an experimental sense revealing nothing more than that obsessive ramblings of an old has been Showman trying to pull another rabbit out of a too well-worn hat with major holes in it. There being no more available rabbits to be found beyond his existential obsessions that age and decadence had left him with. Consider the end result of casting an aged profligate from the street in the place of Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, Prospero! A gutter bound Duke of Milan, permanently exiled, his hopes to regain his kingdom permanently gone and all he can do is obsess about his daughter’s naked, and his betrayers punished though rude forms of rough trade justice. What ever one says about Welles’ overall reputation it does not match other 1930’s Proletariat potboilers of unwashed ire of working class antiheroes like Little Caesar or Scarface.
Orson Welle’s last exercise in movie making, The Other Side Of The Wind, being a pathetic attempt to reinvent himself leaning on the innovations of other much more youthful luminaries that were at that time decades past Welles’ own now wilted bloom. The final product of the recently released version suffering even further from the staccato understanding that resulted in innumerable tiny fragments of dialogue heavy bits and pieces rudely resembling a trite story line. Something that might be useful to some degree to psychologically assaying the mind of the one that initiated it than anything that is capable of entrancing an audience with any validity of purposeful entertainment. What it does illustrated to the viewer is a prurient focus on sexual obsession with his mistress and his impotence to stave off the attentions much younger competitive rivals. The officially inferred of latent homosexuality of his avatar character and his main acolyte equally spitefully portrayed. The film as completed posthumously some thirty years after his death showing the worst of what might have theoretically being his best attentions before his death. The ugliness of personal ruminations accompanying his incremental demise the context that this production seems to fit best. A poor stalking horse when considered by the standard of other directors at the time that Welles’ had initiated this project. Some names that buoy up in the midst of viewing his patchwork being John Boorman in Point Blank, Michelangelo Antonioni, Zabriskie Point and Roger Corman’s, The Trip.
One cannot go so far however to purposely condemn Welles at a palimpsest but rather someone flailing about to survive in a new cinematic landscape where the rules were being written by the young. His earlier achievements in terms of cinema being used in these cases in a manner more evolved beyond his own understanding. Filmmakers are only human being like the rest of us. Those few fortunate to be universally recognized at the height of their abilities to innovate. Yet it is had not to consider the way some other giants that were tasked along the way in their careers to transform finally handles their final curtain calls. Case in point, the German director, Fritz Lang, who after inventing the foundations of Film Noir in his native land with Die Spinnen, Testament of Dr. Mabuse, and M, then transitioning to help perfect it in America is probably best known to this generation through a brief cameo appearance in Jean Luc Godard’s Nouelle Vague masterpiece, Le Mepris. Those who wish to keep Orson Welle’s more brilliant achievements might resist the temptation to view this final poorly sewn together aged Prometheus if they wish to keep the impression of his genius pristine.