Forty-eight years in the making, plagued by production issues and ownership disputes, Orson Welles’s last film “The Other Side of the Wind” premiered at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival and locks in Welles’s legacy as one of the greats. Experimental and thought-provoking, it shows Welles was far ahead of his time. The film has effective commentary on sexual exploitation in film that is even more prescient today following the #MeToo movement, and the need to remain relevant.
The film follows fictional director Jake Hannaford (John Huston) at a screening party for his film, “The Other Side of the Wind,” which has run into its own production issues after his main actor stormed off set. The film is intercut with scenes from the party to scenes from the fictional film. Hannaford is from the Classical Hollywood studio system and struggles to keep up with a rapidly changing film industry in the 1970s that is filling cinemas with graphic depictions of sex and violence.
“The Other Side of the Wind” is Hannaford’s attempt to stay relevant, a last-ditch effort to not be lost in the history books of once great directors. Hannaford, running out of money and time, uses a private screening to secure funding to finish the film. Facing pressure from journalists and people around him, Hannaford starts to drink, making inappropriate comments to a high school girl. As the night goes on, the screening is interrupted multiple times by power outages and securing the funding becomes further from reality.
The party scenes are filmed in a documentary style. The camerawork is messy, unprofessional at first glance and a far departure of Welles’s most famous work, “Citizen Kane.” In “Citizen Kane,” Welles emphasized deep focus and expertly choreographed long takes; “The Other Side of the Wind” is cut quickly, with purposefully poor framing that gives it a run-and-gun documentary feel. Upon further evaluation, it is obviously well planned and choreographed. This style may be jarring for some, especially in the first part of the film, but it’s easy to adjust to as the film goes on.
The film-within-the-film is shot in slow moving surreal style. It’s filled from beginning to end with sexual imagery and is where critiques of the New Hollywood of the 1970s become apparent.
“The Other Side of the Wind” is a film way ahead of its time. If completed earlier, it would have been one of the first mockumentaries. It calls out Hollywood for its, then newfound, obsession with graphic, sexual imagery. It also comments on the misogynistic culture of Hollywood that has recently been brought to light through the #MeToo movement. This makes Orson’s final film even more relevant today, and will be loved by fans of Welles and film lovers alike.