The Other Side of the Wind is Orson Welles’ final, and previously unfinished film. There have been quite a few attempts to bring it to the screen before now (including by Wes Anderson) but it’s Netflix who finally help The Other Side of the Wind come to light.
I’ve no idea what I just watched. I keep trying to think of an elegant way to summarise what the film was about or even what it was, and I’m really struggling. It’s not really like anything that I’ve seen before and it has now left me questioning whether that’s because I’ve got a rather limited appreciation of cinema, or because The Other Side of the Wind is genuinely bonkers.
My previous knowledge of Orson Welles was purely limited to what is perhaps his greatest ever achievement; playing Unicron in Transformers: The Movie. A film of sweeping majesty that showed me that sometimes heroes really do die in cinema. Anyway, I digress. It’s only in the last 12 months that I actually got around to watching Citizen Kane and I was blown away by just how different it was to anything I’d really come across before. It felt like a film sent back in time, with so many modern ideas on display that it could have very easily been made today. At the same time, it also felt very much like a product of its era and fitted seamlessly with its environment. Orson Welles’ final film The Other Side of the Wind is the same in some respects, in that it feels both timeless and very much a product of its time. It’s a film that I’m struggling to find the words to describe, which isn’t ideal when I’m writing a review.
I’m still not sure exactly what happened in The Other Side of the Wind despite having only just watched it and then spent half an hour reflecting on what I’d just seen. The overriding sensation I got when I was watching it was “this is crazy but it’s bold”. I think that’s my main takeaway; that Orson Welles continued to try and make ridiculously inventive and ambitious films right up until he died. The Other Side of the Wind might be overwhelming and confusing but there’s no denying the ambition involved.
I’m well aware that I’m now nearly 400 words in and haven’t yet summarised the plot of The Other Side of the Wind, so here it goes…
Jake Hannaford (John Huston but I couldn’t escape the feeling it was meant to be Welles) is a legendary film director and the film chronicles his last day. That sounds straightforward but it’s not that simple. Hannaford is having a birthday party and a screening of his latest, unfinished opus, The Other Side of the Wind. So what we have here is a film within a film and things start to become rather meta, to say the least. In an art imitating life-esque twist, it turns out that Hannaford’s film is unfinished. We see snippets of the film and it’s arguably more impenetrable and verbose than the film we’re watching.
This film is a biopic, a parody, a tragedy, and entirely experimental. I’m still not sure what I actually watched, but I think I liked it. It was an oddly disorienting experience but it made me think and it made me feel… something. I think at its heart that’s what cinema is meant to do; its meant to change the way we think and to challenge us in some way. There’s no denying The Other Side of the Wind is a challenging film and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s certainly an experience.