Criterion Prediction #239: The Other Side of the Wind, by Alexander Miller
Title: The Other Side of the Wind
Director: Orson Welles
Cast: John Huston, Oja Kodor, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, Edmund O’Brien, Cameron Mitchell, Lilli Palmer, Dennis Hopper
Synopsis: After shooting his latest film abroad in Europe, elusive director JJ Hannaford returns to Hollywood. While celebrating his seventieth birthday, Hannaford, his friends, collaborators, and production team head out to an Arizona ranch while a cadre of documentarians, reporters, and various hangers-on follow in suit. Hannaford screens his recent incomplete film in the hopes of reviving his career and get financing to finish filming.
Critique: It all seemed so strange; the long, sought after, thought-to-be-lost Orson Welles film The Other Side of the Wind is coming to life, thanks to Netflix? Naturally, I was delighted, relieved, and fluttering with that skittering level of excited confusion after the first viewing; it’s a fairly regular feeling that Orson Welles can stir up. At first I thought how amazing it was that, after so many years after his death, Welles’ movie is just as current, fresh, and exciting. The Other Side of the Wind feels just at home when the cigar smoke of old Hollywood moguls was drowned out with the cloud of pot that precipitated the changing times with an eye toward themes of the male gaze. While I was initially aghast with Welles’ contextual time traveling, but, with some time after my initial response of The Other Side of the Wind I realized, that this was the most Wellesian move in the wily bastards deck of cards. He’s been shuffling through movies, appearing in other pictures to bankroll his own, hustling his way through Othello, bouncing around sets and studios during The Third Man, between seemingly innocuous cuts of his film is two years and who knows how much money. So the magic trick that is The Other Side of the Wind, its nearly fifty-year production and its alarmingly relatable contextual groundwork, is both brazenly fresh. Still, it’s another one of Welles’ grand illusions.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: Well, the case for this one is pretty straightforward; it’s The Other Side of the Wind! Not only is this film the posthumous wonder we thought we’d ever see, but the movie isn’t available anywhere on home video; no Blu-Ray, no DVD. On a serious note, there’s recently been headway between Netflix and The Criterion Collection, with the recent announcement of Marriage Story coming our way, and rumors for a potential release of Scorsese’s The Irishman, as well as The Other Side of the Wind. We can make a case for all of Welles’ filmography, and hopefully, they’ll all get the Criterion treatment. Still, The Other Side of the Wind is only available via Netflix streaming, and I know I’m not alone when I saw I want to hold that in my hand.