Orson Welles' unfinished masterpiece to see light of day

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CANNES, France (AP) — It was meant to be his masterpiece to rival "Citizen Kane."

But Orson Welles' final film "The Other Side of the Wind" — billed as his big cinematic comeback after years of living in Europe — was to be left unfinished.

The movie was beset by legal problems and chaos following the filming from 1970-1976 and the negatives never made it to the screen by the time of his death in 1985. Years later they were located — near-forgotten — collecting dust in a warehouse outside of Paris.

And 39 years after the filming wrapped, the full movie — a self-reflexive tale about a legendary director making a career comeback, played by John Huston — will finally see the light of day.

This month, producers launched a 40-day crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising $2 million to help complete the film with a planned 2015 release — to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Welles' birth.

"This is so exciting for the world. It will absolutely become a classic film," said producer Filip Jan Rymsza, who's at the Cannes Film Festival to promote the project.

"It's an expensive undertaking, and so we thought crowdfunding would be an excellent way to raise the funds for the editing and finishing the film. And it's in keeping with Orson as he was someone who always believed in innovative approaches," he added.

Peter Bogdanovich, who co-stars in the film, added: "In the end, let's let the people finish Orson's last film."

The storyline of "The Other Side of the Wind" was supposed to take place during a single day, and Welles intended to make it in eight weeks. It ended up taking six years. Welles filmed for three years even before the leading man, Huston, joined in 1973.

The movie, a cynical portrait of Hollywood, covers the 70th birthday of fictional movie director Jake Hannaford who's trying to make a career comeback. It mirrors Welles' own life — although the director said that it was never meant to be autobiographical.

The film-within-a-film, also called "The Other Side of the Wind," parodies the end of the studio era, and the experimental techniques of the new Hollywood directors.

It also mocks the styles of European directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni, and was shot in a variety of styles — in a sort of collage.

"Every film is a masterpiece in its own right. But this film is really ahead of its time," said Rymsza.

The saga of the film production was almost as dramatic as the film — plagued with difficulties with cast, production and finance. Welles had intended the film to be his comeback picture in the United States after decades spent mainly in Europe — and his one final shot at topping "Citizen Kane." But it was not meant to be — the film ultimately was left uncompleted over rights issues and lack of financing.

"Orson was self-financing. He would take on acting gigs to obtain control of the films he was directing. It was often very complicated. And he had many films taken away from him," said Rymsza.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

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