Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Other Side Of The Wind (2018) - Movie Review of what I do here with these reviews is trying to put singular films into a greater context. The wheres and whys that surround each production can often help make sense of the product itself, for better or for worse. And in the realms of American cinema, few directors can lay claim to being such utter fonts of cinematic context as Orson Welles.

Film as any of us know it simply doesn’t make sense without considering his contribution to the art, something that can easily be taken for granted when looking at his seminal classics in today’s light. From the revolutionary visuals of Citizen Kane to the ground-breaking editing of F For Fake to the character wizardry of Chimes At Midnight, his work has influenced so much of what would come afterwards that it's frankly staggering. He is one of the few filmmakers I can recall where it feels necessary to separate entertainment value from the legacy of the art itself. This film, a posthumous completion of one of the many productions Welles never lived to see completed, is no exception.

Not to say that this film is entirely lacking in standard entertainment value. Finding Welles in his deeply cynical years, this mockumentary-cum-character portrait depicts an aging Hollywood director in the process of working on his latest project. Soaked in scandal-seeking media and artistic narcissism, this gives a look at the cinematic creative process that is rather familiar: The artist struggling to keep up with the times. Watching the intercuts of the titular film-within-a-film, a lurid piece of acid-rock-backed exploitation starring Welles’ wife Oja Kodar, it’s difficult to stifle a few chuckles at the idea that this is the result of someone trying way too hard to relate to them young people today.

Of course, during the 1970’s in American cinema, that is precisely what was going on. The olden days of Hollywood had given way to the New: New creatives, New visual techniques, New styles of narrative. It serves as one of the biggest cultural shifts of the last century, one that gave birth to a seemingly-endless list of directors, writers and actors who would shape the face of Hollywood cinema, if not international cinema, forever after. And knowing how much Welles was starting to question even himself during this time, re-entering America after years of exile in Europe, it’s hard not to see why this particular narrative would spring to mind. The film itself is full of the privacy invasion and critic deconstruction that define this era of Welles’ career, and through that, we see a creative showing worry about his longevity in this new age.

It is because of this that this film’s recent completion actually ends up giving this even more agency as a piece of art, seeing as we are currently on the cusp of another cinematic revolution. We are also starting to shift away from the traditional Hollywood system, turning from the multiplex to the ever-furthering advances in home entertainment technology. It’s a transition that has already seen some successes, like many of the acclaimed Netflix films and series that have come out, and some downfalls, like many of Hollywood’s shocking attempts to catch back up with them young people today. There’s a reason why The Emoji Movie is still as hated as ever, and will likely go down as a watershed moment of just how bad the system can get in modern times: It is textbook trying and failing to appeal to younger audiences.

It is through all this that this film manages to reach a seemingly-unintended poignancy. I say “seemingly” because Welles is one of those creative who had an almost sixth sense in regards to his own work, as he would show not long after shooting this film with F For Fake. Similar to Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, it shows a creative mind pondering on the futility of their own legacy, wondering if what they have to offer the world would survive the changing tides. Also much like Montage Of Heck, because of the time and care that went into its crafting, it allows the creative to speak on the record while also giving a retroactive pat on the back that their legacy is in good hands. Because quite frankly, nothing other than good hands could’ve made this film work so damn well after all this time.

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