MOVIE REVIEW — The Other Side of The Wind
So, this is the long lost Orson Welles film. His long awaited magnum opus. Made within the last years of his life, this film brings the audience into Welles’ psyche during his impending death. Netflix managed to acquire the distribution rights for the film in March of 2017, and announced plans to finish the film and release it. The Other Side of The Wind finally arrived on November 2nd, 2018, after starting production in 10969, a whole 49 years later.
Truth be told, I have never seen Citizen Kane, A Touch of Evil, or any other of Welles’ film to be honest, so it might be quite strange for my first film of his to be seen is his final one, especially with the content of this piece. However, for some, that might be seen as giving me an interesting perception to this film, and to some it might completely negate this article, but it is necessary to understand my viewpoint while reading this. With all that being said, this movie delivered in its experience more than I expected.
The standout for me throughout the film was the varying visual looks. As anyone who has read about this movie knows, this final cut was put together using a very rough cut, and while watching it, that can easily be seen. This film switches very frequently from black & white, to colorized, and from steady cam to handheld, with different quality camera recordings being used, leading to some pretty jarring moments and sequences throughout. In most cases, that would be a negative, but with the situational circumstances surrounding the movie, it is fully understandable, and in this case makes for an interesting viewing experience.
For any segment taking place within the movie inside of the movie, the cinematography is impeccable (specifically the bar scene, but we’ll get to that in a bit). The entrancing nature of the cinematic experience are much more due to the visuals compared to the narrative. The narrative itself really was all over the place, as expected for an unfinished film that was shot in the late 60s-early 70s. There are sequences that work and some that do not, but as a whole, the visual aspects of this film are noteworthy and for the majority of the film are the best parts.
I really wish I could have found a clip of this section to link in with the article, as I believe it is one of the strongest visual experiences in a film to date. Unfortunately I could not, so I am just going to talk about it to the best of my ability, whilst linking the music used within the scene (to the left).
The sequence in the bar is one of the most mesmerizing pieces of art, let alone film, I have ever seen. Prior to this scene I was fading in and out of paying attention to the film as a besides when John Houston was talking, but then the music kicked in and my attention was hooked. Oja Kodar as “The Actress”, commands the screen in an almost indescribable, angelic way. The combination of the music, a booming psychedelic-rock song by the band Blue Cheer, the lighting, the presence of Kodar throughout the scene, the shot composition. Everything within this sequence works perfectly and draws the viewer in, in the most unnaturally natural way imaginable.
As mentioned earlier, John Houston as Jake Hannaford was the other real standout here. Every single line he delivered left an impact. Every scene he was in, he commanded the entire screen. His speech during the party where he compares himself to God, and then his belief that God is a woman, is really interesting material, and is executed to perfection. If ever there was a character whose portrayal felt truer than the film itself, it is Houston’s in the role of Hannaford here.
The presentation of this character throughout the film shows him devolving into a madness as he reaches the increasingly near end of his career/life, bringing along everyone involved in his life with him. His relationship with his lead actor John Dale (played by Robert Random) is the big mystery of the movie, for it seems by the end that he actually cared about him after the majority of the film seeming as if he cared not for a single person. It truly feels as if Welles was pouring his soul into this character as a way to show the world where he was at mentally at the time of this film’s inception and throughout it’s production, up until his death in 1985.
Lastly, some applause has to be given to Netflix for finally getting this film out to the public. They managed to get the rights and access to an unfinished 45+ year old movie, finish it, release it, and have it be coherent enough to view, and on top of all that, it was actually really excellent despite being unfinished and unreleased for almost 50 years. Netflix also released a wonderfully put together documentary covering the film, titled, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. It is certainly worth the watch for fans of the film, or anyone enamored with the story of the films long delayed production and subsequent release.
Netflix gets flack for films like Bright and The Ridiculous Six, but throughout 2018 they have really made a move, showing that they are turning things around with releases such as The Other Side of The Wind, Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Annihilation (internationally), and several other noteworthy films. For all their flaws, Netflix has paved the way for a new era of film consumption, and have finally given cinephiles one of their most anticipated films of all-time.
So to wrap this all up, watch this film. Even if you have never seen any of Welles’ work prior to this, it is worth the watch for the experience alone The narrative is boring at points, but performances from John Houston, Oja Kodar, and Peter Bogdanavich all are wonderful, and the cinematography is truly something to behold at points. The Other Side of The Wind is an otherworldly cinematic experience if I have ever seen one.