Saw Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind last night. It’s his last film, uncompleted when he died.
Some top Hollywood professionals, including producer Frank Marshall and director-actor Peter Bogdanovich (who both worked with Welles on the movie), put in huge efforts to turn hundreds of reels in different formats into a single movie, according to a documentary featurette that screened with the film. Marshall and three of the film’s top post-production people attended the screening and talked about their struggles in bringing Welles’ last creation into a complete and living form.
Did their long, hard work yield a good movie? Well . . .
The Other Side of the Wind is a picturesque, scattershot mess about Jake Hannaford, a director who’s screening his newest and not yet complete movie, also called The Other Side of the Wind, at his 70th birthday party. While he hosts the party, he has to deal with biographers and documentarians intruding on the party, friends and assistants who try to help the director but sometimes only bother him, severe problems plaguing the movie, and so on.
It’s a jumble — an energetic and intriguing jumble, but a jumble.
And wildly sexist. The movie has very few women, almost all of whom are complainers or annoyances. Two exceptions: a clueless teenager whom the aged Hannaford seems to be grooming for seduction, and the film-within-the-film’s leading lady.
This woman is one of the most blatant fantasies ever put in a non-porno film. She’s exotically beautiful, sexually hungry (though a bit of a tease), completely wordless (she never speaks) and almost always nude. She doesn’t even have a name; the movie calls her The Actress. She’s all sexuality, no personality.
By the way, the woman who played her — Oja Kodar — was Welles’ lover and the movie’s co-writer. Make of that what you want.
The movie never bored me, but it rarely fascinated me. It’s a shame, too. Welles offered some characters with potential for richness and surprises, and he displayed some intriguing visuals, but they didn’t come together into anything focused and coherent.