It’s absolutely incredible, and surreal, that in 2018 we’re able to see The Other Side of the Wind. The final film of Orson Welles, which was left uncompleted after his death, was finally filmed from 1970 to 1976 and is now available streaming on Netflix after conservation efforts were made to restore it. Regardless of anything else, the film is a historical relic, a curiosity that will be studied by film scholars for years, and in many ways is impossible to think about without considering the life and times of Welles himself.
As for the film itself, it’s a challenging, provocative film that’s wild, confounding, and purposefully disorienting at points- all of which makes the film all the more fascinating. The bizarre, frantic energy the film establishes often makes the film hard to follow, the odd documentary elements and untraditional structure make it disorienting, and indeed, it’s a very indulgent film- this is the point, of course. It’s clear that Welles was attempting to create a wholly unique cinematic experience, and its uncompleted, flawed final cut make it all the more of an interesting watch as we consider the ultimate question- what exactly did Welles intend, and what would his cut look like? These are questions we’ll never have answers for.
The film follows legendary filmmaker Jake Hannaford (John Huston), who died in a car accident following the screening of his unfinished new film. The film recounts the events of the following day, with a mass of colleagues, artists, and journalists gathered to celebrate the film. What we get is a chaotic confluence of characters who gather to ponder and reflect on the legacy of an artist, intercut with footage of Hannaford’s film- the puzzling, darkly sexual magnum opus The Other Side of the Wind.
The parallels to Welles are impossible to ignore, as is the the impossibility of reviewing a film by a writer/director who started off his career making the greatest film of all-time. The Other Side of the Wind standouts as a meditation on Old and New Hollywood and the legacy of a filmmaker, and in many ways feels like the most personal film Welles ever attempted to make. It’s a must see for cinephiles, both for its legendary status and its individual quality. Grade: A