Superbly-edited and exuding a sense of ‘new wave’ energy, Welles’ previously incomplete film before his death is now complete (or not?) in this strange, kaleidoscopic but rather uncompelling work.
Dir. Orson Welles
2018 | USA/France | Drama | 122 mins | 1.37:1 | English & German
M18 (Netflix) for sexual content, graphic nudity and some language
Cast: John Huston, Oja Kodar, Peter Bogdanovich
Plot: A Hollywood director emerges from semi-exile with plans to complete work on an innovative motion picture.
Awards: Nom. for Queer Lion (Venice)
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Orson Welles’ long incomplete film since the 1980s is now given a rebirth in The Other Side of the Wind, with support from Netflix. Welles had been editing the film for a release before he passed away in 1985.
Those who were close to him and his work had been trying for the longest time to find enough funding to finish the film for him, and now with the final film (complete or not, no one knows for sure) available for viewing, the jury is in.
I haven’t got to the level of being wholly familiar with Welles’ obsessions and filmmaking styles, but The Other Side of the Wind is a strange film to me. It is fragmentary, kaleidoscopic, and through its vibrant visuals, shot in both colour and black-and-white, the film exudes a sense of ‘new wave’ energy.
Yet, it all feels rather uncompelling. There are too many characters to follow, many of them self-serving, plus its narrative can either get too complicated or wearisome for viewers to determine and appreciate its intent.
“I’m afraid you’re getting out of sequence. Someone must’ve given you the wrong reel.”
“Does it matter?”
The legendary Classical Hollywood director John Huston stars as Jake Hannaford, a semi-exile Hollywood director attempting to complete a film called ‘The Other Side of the Wind’, apparently an atmospheric experimental work with nary a dialogue, about two strangers, a man and woman, who desire but also repel each other.
The woman is nude most of the time, which suggests an avantgarde erotica in the making that might be ahead of its time. We get to see these footage in extended sections—and these happen to be the most engaging parts of The Other Side of the Wind.
The rest of the film is more or less idle chatter to me, as Hannaford’s cast and crew gather together for a night of celebration and preview his rough cut. Like any extended gathering, it can get exhausting. In fact, I wished we get to see the entirety of Hannaford’s film instead than Welles’ meta-cinematic and self-referential dilly-dallying.