Saturday, November 24, 2018
They'll Love Me When I'm Dead
Directed by Morgan Neville, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is the story about the making of Orson Welles’ 1970s comeback film The Other Side of the Wind as well as the film's troubled production and attempts to finish it before Welles' death in 1985. The film explore the difficulty in making the film which had a sporadic six-year shoot that ended in 1976 only to be followed by more challenges relating to its post-production and Welles’ death. Featuring interviews from two of the film’s stars in filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and Welles’ artistic/life partner Oja Kodar as well as many others plus narration by Alan Cumming. The result is an intoxicating and entrancing film from Morgan Neville about a film that became a legend for not being released or finished until now.
In the 1970s following a near-two decade period of exile from Hollywood, Orson Welles had plans to make what he hoped to be his comeback film at a time when New Hollywood was up and running where filmmakers were making new and exciting films that felt personal rather than commercial. For Welles, it felt like the right time to return to Los Angeles to make this new film entitled The Other Side of the Wind which was to be about a filmmaker’s final day where he celebrates his 70th birthday at his home where he hosts a screening party for his new film while lamenting over the lack of funds he needed to finish the film. It’s a film that would play into the many themes that Welles had explored for much of his career from man’s determination to create something to the element of betrayal which Welles would endure professionally and personally.
The film is about the making of Welles’ attempted comeback film told by those who worked on the film such as filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, co-writer/actress/Welles’ life partner Oja Kodar, film producer Frank Marshall who was the film’s unit production manager, actress Cathy Lucas, comedian Rich Little, actor Bob Random, and several others including actress Cybill Shepherd, filmmaker Henry Jaglom, Welles’ daughter Beatrice, and John Huston’s son in actor Danny Huston. With the exception of Kodar and a few others who appear via audio, many of the people interviewed are presented in black-and-white by director Morgan Neville and cinematographer Danny Grunes as they talk about the film’s troubled production.
The reason it took so long wasn’t just financial issues as Welles had those interest in funding his film including Mehdi Boushehri who was the brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran during the 1970s. It was also for the fact that Welles would write the script on production and make things up as he went along. Rich Little was cast as Brooks Otterlake during the 1973-1974 production period but his inexperience in acting as well as scheduling conflicts forced him to be replaced by Bogdanovich who had filmed a different part during the film’s early filming stages in 1970 and 1971 as a boom operator. John Huston came on board for the production in 1973 when Welles had difficulty trying to find someone to play the lead role of J.J. “Jake” Hannaford as he and Welles were good friends where Danny Huston shared the similarities into their issues with Hollywood. Other issues that plagued the production was its lack of progress with crew members waiting to get paid while Welles’ cinematographer Gary Graver had to do porn films to pay the bills where Welles did edit a scene in one of those films.
Neville’s direction doesn’t just play into the events of the production as well as the important contributions Kodar and Graver (who died in 2006) had done for the film but also in the interviews by the collaborators as they all sit in a room and talk about the film. Alan Cumming's narration is definitely a highlight of the film as he narrates the film on a soundstage surrounded by rows of moviola editing machines that is created by production designer Jade Spiers with costume designer Raina Selene Mieloch Blinn providing the suit that Cumming would wear. Cumming would present the events that happened including the troubling moments after filming completed in 1976 such as the 1979 Iranian Revolution which impacted the financing as well as the post-production for the film. Adding to the problems of money that Welles owed was that he was unable to have access to material he had shot which was locked in a vault in France.
With the help of editors Aaron Wickenden and Jason Zeldes along with sound designer Peter Mullen, Neville would gather footage of Welles’ doing interviews and such about his film including the 1975 appearance at the American Film Institute in his honor where he presents a couple of clips from the film as a way to get funding which he received none. By the 1980s, Welles’ attempt to finish his film through whatever footage he had made him melancholic where Bogdanovich revealed that events would mirror the film as it’s shown on a late-night talk show hosted by Burt Reynolds talking to Welles that had him say bad things about Bogdanovich. Welles would apologize but their relationship wasn’t the same.
Visual effects supervisor Chris Holmes would provide some effects for some of photos shown on the film. The film’s music by Daniel Wohl is wonderful for its low-key ambient score that play into the melancholia and chaos that went on through the production while music supervisors Jody Friedman and Jennifer Lanchart provide a soundtrack that mixes classical, rock, punk, and other music from Yes, Suicide, the Buzzcocks, and Ludwig Van Beethoven.
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a phenomenal film from Morgan Neville. Not only is the film is a fitting companion piece to the just-released The Other Side of the Wind but it’s also a riveting film about the attempt to make a film that would become legend for not being released with the world finally getting a chance to see it. It’s also a documentary film that doesn’t play by the rules as it also play up into the myth that is Orson Welles and dispel many of those myths to show a man that was driven to create something that is out of the ordinary. In the end, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a spectacular film from Morgan Neville.
Morgan Neville Films: (The Cool School) – (20 Feet from Stardom) – (Best of Enemies) – Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Orson Welles Films: Citizen Kane - The Magnificent Ambersons - The Stranger (1946 film) - The Lady from Shanghai - Macbeth (1948 film) - Othello (1952 film) - Mr. Arkadin - Touch of Evil - The Trial (1962 film) - Chimes at Midnight - The Immortal Story - F for Fake - Filming Othello - The Other Side of the Wind
Related: Orson Welles: The One-Man Band - The Eyes of Orson Welles - The Auteurs #69: Orson Welles: Part 1 - Part 2
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