In the words of Orson Welles himself: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is a crazy picture. It is not a documentary. It is a departure from moviemaking. Everybody will think the film is autobiographical but it is not.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is a film within a film. It is supposed to be Welles’ comeback film after being ostracized by Hollywood. He never completed the film and passed away with the footage locked in a Paris vault. Funds were eventually provided by Netflix for its completion.
The film opens by a voiceover describing the final day of Jake Hannaford (John Huston), an aging Hollywood director who was killed in a car crash on his 70th birthday. The narration is from an elderly Brooks Otterlake (Peter Bogdanovich), who had been a protégé of Hannaford’s. Just before his death, Hannaford was trying to revive his waning career by making a flashy film, laden with gratuitous sex scenes and violence, with mixed results. At the time of Hannaford’s party, this film (titled The Other Side of the Wind) has been left unfinished after its star stormed off the set, for reasons not immediately apparent to the audience.
A screening of some incomprehensible parts of Hannaford’s unfinished experimental film takes place, in order to attract “end money” from studio boss Max David. Hannaford himself is absent, and a loyal member of his entourage, the former child star Billy Boyle, makes an inept attempt to describe what the film is about. Intercut during this, we see various groups setting out for Hannaford’s seventieth birthday party at an Arizona ranch. Hannaford arrives with a young Brooks Otterlake, a commercially successful director with a talent for mimicking celebrities, who credits much of his success to his close study of Hannaford.
The story goes on but the film is all over the place and hardly coherent when one finally figures out what is happening. The film contains a few stunning segments, the most notable being these two most sexually explicit ones:
– the beginning graphic lesbian steamroom scene, rapidly intercut, featuring Oja Kodar (the actress at the time was Welles’ lover), which Hannaford is in the process of filming at the start.
the sex scene in an 1968 Ford Mustang fastback. The car takes off in the rainy night, and as the boyfriend drives, the pair have sex in the passenger seat next to him. After a few minutes the boyfriend stops the car, grabs the girl off of Dale (the actor playing the lading character in WIND), and appears to make an attempt to engage her for himself. She rebukes him and the pair is then tossed out. John Dale, with his pants halfway down, lands in a large puddle.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is definitely not a masterpiece as Welles hoped it to be. It is not even a good film. It is madness personified into a film, with a few absorbing segments as well as unconnected boring parts in between.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND will be more interesting to cineastes (for example; what does the title even mean?) but for the rest the film is best avoided.