They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018) is a documentary film about the grueling making of a film, which is about the making of a film within that film. Confused? I was. Directed by Morgan Neville, the documentary focuses (not always clearly) on the production of The Other Side of the Wind, a movie Orson Welles hoped would be regarded as his big Hollywood comeback.
Welles, who for decades had felt betrayed by Hollywood, at last decided to return there in the 70s, following roughly twenty years of exile in Europe. He set out to shoot his last masterpiece, or “lost masterpiece” as it came to be known, after endless filming and editing and hurdles, after the film’s eventual confinement in a vault in France because the brother of the deposed Shah of Iran hadn't gotten his investment back, after no funding was procured to retrieve the footage, and so on and so forth . . . The Other Side of the Wind seemed doomed from the get-go, and this Netflix documentary shows that, with all the absurdity of Welles’ production thrown into the mix, along the lines of art (the doc) depicting life creating art which is a spoof of life creating art.
The whole Other Side project must have truly been a bizarre experience for all involved, and the documentary is frustrating in parts because it tries, unnecessarily so, to be experimental as well, I guess to reflect the avant-garde nature of Welles’ film. It’s entertaining, though, and seeing the larger-than-life Orson Welles, particularly in the scenes with his co-rapscallion John Huston, makes watching it a treat. It’s sad, too, in the end. Welles, auteur of some of the greatest films ever made, was never offered the funding he wanted and needed to finish his final masterpiece. Backstage, I suppose, a happy ending lay in wait, as Welles’ film was at last released, forty-eight years after production initially got underway.