Forty-seven years after its first day of filming, Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind hits theaters and Netflix on Nov. 2. While critics will pant with curious glee, it’s hard to imagine the average Joe Schmo lasting more than 10 minutes with Welles’ long-lost project, a film-within-a-film-within-a-film. Welles’ idea was to present Wind as a reconstruction of recently discovered documentary footage of director Jake Hannaford (John Huston) attempting to show his own unfinished movie to his guests; it’s perhaps the first “found-footage” movie ever made. The notion of Welles inadvertently begetting Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project is far more delicious than anything presented in this 122-minute edit of his last film.
Regardless, there’s merit to be found in The Other Side of the Wind. From a visual perspective, it is pure Orson. His meticulous handiwork is evident in the framing and composition both in the black-and-white footage that constitutes the ersatz documentary footage and the color scenes that represent Hannaford’s movie. There’s a fun “spot the actor-director” vibe to the latter, which features real people such as Claude Chabrol intermingling with other directors who are themselves playing characters.
But the editing — the current cut was assembled recently — is often jarringly misjudged and unlike Welles. This The Other Side of the Wind has a haphazard “well, he shot it, so we better include it” vibe. One wonders just how much of the existing editing Welles got to oversee himself; the answer is: probably not much. There’s a tight, 80-minute feature trapped in The Other Side of the Wind, one that Welles most likely would have exhumed had he not run out of money while filming.
Orson WellesJohn Huston, Robert Random, Peter BogdanovichOja Kodar, Orson WellesNetflix