Centennial Festival Brings Cinematic Collaborator & Love Of Orson Welles: The Elegant & Timeless Oja Kodar

The Elegant Oja Kodar & Orson Welles
The Elegant Oja Kodar & Orson Welles

“Her name is Oja. Oja Kodar.” -Orson Welles, “F For Fake”

Oja Kodar. It is a name that I have gained a much deeper appreciation for…

Oja was born in 1941 as Olga Palinkaš in Zagreb, Croatia to a Hungarian father and a Croatian mother. In 1961, Oja, a young sculptress, would meet Orson Welles in Zagreb while he was filming “The Trial”. Welles was Forty-six and Kodar was twenty. In 1967 they would be reunited again during Welles filming in Yugoslavia and Hungary of “The Heroine” and “The Deep”. Oja, who would become an actress and screen writer with Welles films, would become a cinematic collaborator, partner and the love of Orson Welles during the last nineteen years of his life. For certain, age was no barrier in forming a bond that would span the years until his death in 1985. Welles is said to have given this “dark, beautiful and exotic-looking” woman the stage name Oja Kodar, which is stated to be a mixture of the name ‘Oja’ given by her sister Nina and the croatian expression ‘ko-dar’ (as a present). As an artistic and life partner Of Orson Welles in his last years, the beauty of this iconic relationship endures. Time can certainly not erase the love one holds…

In the world of film, Oja is known as a cinematic collaborator with Orson Welles. Kodar appeared in the memorable role of herself in the film “F for Fake” (1973) (my personal favorite) as well as in Welles films “The Deep” (1967) and the “Other Side Of The Wind” (1970/1975), among others. Of note, “Orson Welles: The One-Man Band” (1995) is a perspective from Oja Kodar of Orson Welles’ archives of unfinished/never released movies and the last years of his life. Oja also co-wrote with Orson Welles the screen play “The Big Brass Ring”(1999). Beyond an actress, screen writer and film director, Oja is a true artist that I am honored to have met…

Woodstock Celebrates Orson Welles:   Centennial Festival 2015
Woodstock Celebrates Orson Welles:Centennial Festival 2015

Oja arrived in Woodstock, Illinois from Croatia as part of our Woodstock Celebrates Orson Welles Centennial Festival, “An Evening With Oja Kodar” which was held on May 9th, 2015. The event was moderated by Welles’ Scholar, former Chicago Reader Film critic, and author Jonathan Rosenbaum. Woodstock, Illinois is considered Welles’ adopted hometown considering he had attended Todd School For Boys in Woodstock. It is stated that Woodstock was “Where it all began” for Orson. How amazing it must have been for Oja, now in her mid Seventies, to return to Woodstock and take part in the month-long salute we are celebrating in honor of Orson Welles. I am honored to have met her…

When I first sighted Oja Kodar, I was high on a grand staircase, draping red fabric swags from a chandelier to the banister for our Orson Welles Centennial Festival Gala Party. The moment was magical. Surreal. Ethereal. She had floated into the building with grace and poise like she has done within the reels of film that have captured her. An elegance was certainly about her. Accompanied by her charming sister, Nina and niece, Biljana, the threesome lit up the room. Our meeting and personal exchange of welcoming hospitality was special and certainly memorable but my moments ahead with all of them, especially Oja, would be even more profound for me…

And of the evening? It was memorable…

“An Evening With Oja Kodar”, Orson Welles Centennial Festival /May 9, 2015/Woodstock, Illinois

The moment was magical. Enchanting. For me, the realization through her words and open sharing about her life with Orson, brought me to the realization of the true depth of her love for him. Her own life, since Welles, has been ensuring his legacy. This legacy lives on in Woodstock and her presence with us has only strengthened the fabric of his past within our city. For certain, Oja holds a love and a passion within her for Orson that will never cease. It is absolutely beautiful to witness and feel within every movement and expression she made. Intense.

Her words that have remained, swimming in my thoughts, is her analogy of her and Orson being like “Two rivers”. Rivers are strong. How beautiful is it when each natural flowing body of water flows and moves, flowing towards each other? The beauty of love itself, I believe. Oja also said that “Orson was like the other side of the wind”. I will always contemplate on this when I think of the two of them together. And of Oja herself? In nature, she is like a beautiful butterfly, as she seemed to me, floating in that billowy blue dress in the film “F For Fake”. With the same elegance and posture as iconic as ‘that dress’ she wore in the opening scene of “F For Fake” in which Oja and her sheer feminine appeal attracts attention while walking down the street, she was before us. That film scene provides an unforgettable visual of great cinematography and subject.

“A Sequence in the fine outdoor sport of girl watching”- Orson Welles.

Indeed…

“F For Fake” 1973 Film With Orson Welles & Oja Kodar
Oja Kodar/”F For Fake” The Iconic Dress & Filmed Scene
“F For Fake” 1973 Film With The Graceful & Beautiful Oja Kodar
Oja Kodar/1970's
Oja Kodar/1970’s
The Memorable Oja Kodar & Orson Welles
The Memorable Oja Kodar & Orson Welles
The Photographed Visuals Of Oja Kodar
The Photographed Visuals Of Oja Kodar
Iconic Images:  Orson Welles & Oja Kodar
Iconic Images: Orson Welles & Oja Kodar
Oja Kodar/”An Evening With Oja Kodar””/May 2015/Woodstock Celebrates Orson Welles Centennial Festival

With grace and charm, she spoke. Paired with expressive gestures to match her impactful words, when she smiled, you felt her love for Orson. The opportunity to be present to hear her words as she spoke about her life and artistic collaboration with Welles was memorable. With my growing respect for Orson Welles, to meet and exchange words on a personal level with one who was loved & appreciated for her talents and artistry by this great man of the cinematic world and beyond was awe inspiring. To have met Oja? I was moved. Deeply. Unforgettable.

Myself & Oja Kodar:  An Unforgettable Moment  May 2015/Woodstock, IL
Myself & Oja Kodar: An Unforgettable Moment
May 2015/Woodstock, IL

Of the night itself, perhaps our own Woodstock Celebrates stated it perfectly:
It was an enchanted evening. Jonathan Rosenbaum demonstrated, once again, his incredible knowledge of, insight into and sensitivity to both cinema in general and Orson Welles’ contribution to the art. But while Jonathan demonstrated, Oja Kodar enchanted. Don’t ask me to explain enchantment. Never having been an enchanter, I don’t know how it’s done. But I suspect that her great, enduring, undiminished love for Orson Welles is so pure that it became its own life form and it infected us all. Truly, I have been infected with this clear evidence of Oja’s undiminished, enduring love. A love that is so evidently pure that it has become a life form of its own. The river is still flowing. It will never cease.

If anything, merely consider with appreciation the mere beauty of a love that endures and the gift to the cinematic world that these two offered. It is so clear to see why he loved her. For certain, as her last name (stage name) of “Kodar” attests, she is indeed a present. A gift. My appreciation of her and her gift will always endure…

Thank you, Oja. “I miss you already”….

Onward,

Kristin

Myself, Behind The Lens:  Capturing Oja Kodar
Myself, Behind The Lens: Capturing Oja Kodar
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