Oscar winning director Chuck Workman’s new film “Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles” shows a side of Orson Welles never before seen in any long form documentary. Unlike most Welles docs which seem to dwell only on Welles’ formidable masterpiece “Citizen Kane”, Workman explores the immense body of work accumulated by this independent filmmaker who always managed to find ways to get his films off the ground despite a lack of support from the major American studios. “Chimes at Midnight”, “Othello”, “Touch of Evil, and the soon to be completed “The Other Side of the Wind” are among the extraordinary cinematic achievements featured in Workman’s documentary that extended far beyond “Citizen Kane”.
In a unique fashion, Workman creates a narrative told to us through the voice of Welles himself as well as collaborators, inspired filmmakers, and even Welles’ longtime companion Oja Kador. Workman also uses documents and film clips from some of Welles’ lost and incomplete films. This includes an inside look into the inner workings behind the collapse of what was to be Welles’ debut feature at RKO Studios “Heart of Darkness” and the editing drama behind both “The Magnificent Ambersons” and “Touch of Evil”. Both of those latter titles suffered immense revisions made without Welles’ approval upon their initial theatrical releases. Fortunately, “Touch of Evil” was eventually restored by editor Walter Murch with the assistance of a detailed Welles memo written to Universal Pictures executives 50 years earlier. Speaking of editing, Welles’ unfinished last film “The Other Side of the Wind” is currently in the process of being edited by Oscar nominated filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich who also acts in the film. “The Other Side of the Wind” is projected to be completed by Welles’ 100th birthday in May of 2015. “Magician” features one of the last interviews with legendary director Paul Mazursky who is among the many actors featured in “The Other Side of the Wind”. The film stars John Huston as a down and out director looking to find his inner machismo to resuscitate his career as a filmmaker. The cast also includes: Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Mazursky, Dennis Hopper, Henry Jaglom, Susan Strasberg, and Mercedes McCambridge. “The Other Side of the Wind” was initially shot in the early to mid 1970s but because of rights issues, beyond anyone’s control, the film was never completed. The raw footage has been found as well as script and editing notes from Welles himself. Let’s all hope this cinematic treasure will finally be seen in 2015. Check out this article from The New York Times chronicling the journey behind Welles’ soon to be completed last film “The Other Side of the Wind”. Oscar nominated producer Frank Marshall, who worked on the production of “The Other Side of the Wind”, is also behind the current editing and restoration process. The New York Times – “Orson Welles’ Last Film May Finally Be Released”
Watch the trailer for “Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles”.
On The Road to Cinema Podcast, Workman describes his editing process, his inspiration behind telling the story of Orson Welles, and how documentary storytelling is a distinct cinematic form. Subscribe and rate The Road to Cinema Podcast on iTunes. You can also follow us on Twitter @JogRoad for the latest updates! “Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles” is playing in limited release in New York and Los Angeles and set to be released via Video OnDemand in early 2015. Stay tuned for the latest updates on the VOD release by following the film’s distributor @CohenMediaGroup on Twitter.
Take a look at “Precious Images” the short film which earned director Chuck Workman an Oscar for “Best Short Film” at the 1987 Academy Awards ceremony.