It feels surreal to be reviewing an Orson Welles film in 2018, something I know the majority of people have not seen. Yet, while watching The Other Side of the Wind I was immediately struck by how modern this film felt. Despite having been shot forty years ago, the themes of disillusionment, especially with Hollywood, and the rabid ferocity of acolytes and fans seem more prevalent now than ever before.
It's no secret that The Other Side of the Wind is as referential as it is exploratory; this is not just a film about a film, this is a film about Welles at the end of his career, celebrated and adored, yet misunderstood. I think it's fair to submit the idea that the obsession people had, and have, with Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil gave him this godlike persona in cinema, which led to idolatry -- something Welles clearly disavows and despises in this film.
What is most interesting for me, though, is how cynical this film is, both of the industry it is portraying and toward Jake Hannaford as a character. Hannaford is a man drunk on power and lost in his own sea of ideas. The eponymous film in this film, "The Other Side of the Wind" has brilliance in it, but it's never fully realized. Much like the film Welles made, it's a terrifying fever dream, permeated with erotic explorations of sexuality and stitched together with dizzying editing.
The Other Side of the Wind follows a director, J.J. Hannaford, who is disillusioned with his work and his business. He returns to the United States from Europe with the purpose of finishing his comeback film, “The Other Side of the Wind.”
The brilliance I find in The Other Side of the Wind has very little to do with the film in the film, though; rather, its the portrayal of the creative mind: always moving, always thinking, always tinkering and attempting to create with different elements. Both Welles and Hannaford are clear perfectionists, and there are moments -- often when Hannaford is watching his own film -- that you can see that glint of creative perseverance and ingenuity in his eye. It's the same drive that pushed Welles to shoot this film off and on over four years.
In many ways, those cinephiles who have waited with bated breath for this film's release may feel disappointed; the first half-hour of the film feels especially dizzying and disorienting, without purpose or structure (likely by design). However, underneath the surface, simmering just underneath the crisp close-ups and stunning wide shots, there is a deeper discussion going on, one which has stood the test of time.
Perhaps the best thing for The Other Side of the Wind is for it to be released now, when entertainment and filmmaking feel wayward, especially in terms of creativity. Nothing like this -- nothing this raw, or holding this kind of cynicism for the creative process and Hollywood -- has been released in the past decade. Maybe, from beyond the grave, Welles will spur some sort of creative retrospection; maybe, with his unique brand of dark storytelling, pervasive humor, lurid visuality, and cynical moralism he can save cinema from itself.
“THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND” ★★★★★
directed by Orson Welles
written by Oja Kodar & Orson Welles
released November 2, 2018 || Rated R || 122 MIN