The very, very, very, very last motion picture from Orson Welles
Disclaimer: Orson Welles has been dead since 1985, but in 1970, he was working on a comeback film called “The Other Side of the Wind.” At the time of his death, nearly 100 hours of footage was completed with memos, edited scenes, and directives. And finally, it was completed, and made for Netflix. But don’t worry, it lasts for 2 hours.
This looks like a documentary in this generation, but its actually a mockumentary thawed from ice. So, the footage is vintage, the editing is close, and actors are original. Not to mention: shots are in color and black and white, depending on how the images were shot, and why they were shot those ways. This is so cool.
The best performance in the movie is by John Huston (the late father of Danny Huston) as filmmaker J.J. Hannaford-“the Ernest Hemingway of the cinema,” as they say. His last motion picture before his tragic death was the unfinished cut of “The Other Side of the Wind.” It involves sex and violence, and at this point, only former child star Billy Boyle (Norman Foster) knows what this is about. But still, studio boss Max David (Geoffrey Land) finds it unfinished, especially since leading man John Dale (Robert Random) left the project.
When we see the movie at Hannaford’s birthday party, it’s a trip. We see bathroom sex, night clubs with colorful lights, and a slut (Oja Kodar) cutting off a doll’s hair, and then seducing the leading man in a car. Get ready for more sex scenes, because they’re drawn to perfection. And the music and eroticism keep things looking fly.
It took a while for me to understand the concept of “The Other Side of the Wind,” but I consider this a cult film that has finally come out of its shell. It’s ready for the world to see it, and we’re ready to see it.
Back to the editing process. Scenes are presented here in color, while others are in black and white. They’re spliced on a bizarre plane, especially when a color image changes to a colorless image and back to color again. With the fake interviews, filming scenes, and color shots, I was reminded of Oliver Stone’s visual style in “Natural Born Killers.” And I love seeing all the smoking in the black and white scenes. They look seductive and artistic.
Bob Murawski (“The Hurt Locker,” the “Spider-Man” trilogy) finished the editing process for Welles, and he did an awesome job. I took an editing course, and if I was still there, I’d talk about it to the other students and teachers.
Back to John Huston. His voice, beard, cigar and charisma makes himself feel so distinctive. He’s brilliant as J.J. Hannaford. I love the way he watches his own movie at his party, and I love the way his character directs his movie characters and answers interviews.
And you also have Peter Bogdanovich as Hannaford’s former protege-now-turned successful filmmaker, who reunites with him. Just look at his Rich Little look, complete with black hair and glasses. And his young voice is so lively.
I didn’t understand everything in the movie, but it’s the visual style, acting, and risks that makes “The Other Side of the Wind” a final masterpiece for Orson Welles.