Orson Welles is a filmmaker with more than a few examples of films being recut without his consent or input, most famously The Magnificent Ambersons. At least he was alive for that one, something that can’t be said for The Other Side of the Wind, hitting Netflix today.
Made in sporadic bursts over the last few years of Welles’ life, the movie stars John Huston as a reclusive and erratic film director who comes out of semi-retirement to complete a project he’s been working on for a long while. Using notes, footage and more, a group of historians, friends and others have cobbled together something they believe is in line with what Welles intended.
In addition to the images of the cast’s faces hovering in a plume of smoke, the poster makes the message that this is a unique experience loud and clear. It calls out that it’s a film by Welles, that it was “40 years in the making” and that it is “His final film,” though all those messages are placed somewhat haphazardly so it’s not a cohesive idea being presented. It’s not a bad poster, it’s just a bit disjointed.
There’s a ton going on in the trailer, released in late August around the time it was screening at festivals. it’s obvious there’s a heavy meta angle being taken as we see this is the story of a filmmaker who’s coming back into the public spotlight to finish a long-delayed movie, inviting strong emotions from everyone around him.
You definitely get a 70s head-trip vibe from the trailer, something enhanced by the different film formats used in various scenes. This seems like it came directly from the kind of environment that produced Head, Easy Rider and other films.
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There was plenty of coverage following the news Netflix had picked up the movie, but things really picked up when the company tried to bring it to Cannes, something the festival directors weren’t having. That’s because they fundamentally disagreed with Netflix’s insistence on releasing it on the streaming service and not in theaters.
Shortly after the trailer came out, Indiewire went deep on the process the producers and their teams went through to assemble all the footage that was available into something that matched, as near as they possibly could, what Welles may have intended for the movie. There was also a dive into the convoluted series of production, financing and other issues Welles engaged in to keep cameras running but which also contributed to the problems that have held the movie back for decades.
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
At the same time The Other Side of the Wind is hitting Netflix, the company is also releasing They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, a documentary that covers the making of the movie. The trailer for that shows it’s made up of behind-the-scenes footage from the making of TOSotW, interviews with some of the cast and crew as well as Welles collaborators and friends. It includes some of the interviews Welles did as he was producing the movie or otherwise discussing it. In essence this is the context with which the audience should view TOSotW, providing the necessary background information.
Netflix seems to be hoping that the buzz that’s been generated around the movie is enough to get audiences to tune in. But this is very much a prestige release, not something that’s going to bring in the masses like Bright or even a high-profile drama like Mudbound. They seem to want to do this to prove their cinematic credentials, but it comes at a time when, in the wake of FilmStruck being shut down, the topic of classic films on streaming services is fresh once again.
Honestly, the sister documentary seems like the more interesting idea.
Picking Up The Spare
There were plenty more stories like this in the days around and following release that covered the whole history of the film, including how Netflix revived it and finally brought it to completion.