Saturday, 22 December 2018

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018) - Movie Review feel like I shot myself in the foot with my last review. The one time I make it a point to highlight the necessity for context and putting a film into a larger perspective, to the point where I wind up writing about it than the film itself, and it turns out that someone else managed to do a far better job at that than I could ever have managed. I watched this film right after watching The Other Side Of The Wind, the result of which was a personally surreal experience where I felt like I was being schooled in how to talk about film. A lesser man would abandon this review entirely, go back to the other one and do some sneaky reworking to ease that inadequacy. It’s all in the editing, after all. But no, instead of making this entirely about me, I’ll just make it partially about myself as we take a look at this phenomenal making-of documentary.

That feeling of déjà vu set in in record time, with the film going into Hollywood history in the background of Orson Welles’ final masterpiece and his place within it. It covers a lot of ground (albeit in asynchronous fashion), from his childhood to his body of work to the many, many years he spent trying to make The Other Side Of The Wind a reality.

And oh boy, was there a lot that went into this… production wise, at least. I mean, even without Welles’ chaotic editing style, the fact that it was made without an actual script in place, making everything up as they went, makes all too much sense. From there, the titbits about how long specific sequences took reach the realms of the ridiculous (the sex scene in the film-within-a-film took three years to film, making for what might be the longest cinematic orgasm of all time), yet the context provided of Welles’ previous films actually make a case for that kind of long game.

Of course, the biggest boon to the attempts made to make sense of what happened is the editing by Aaron Wickenden and Jason Zeldes. Welles himself would be proud of the work done here, carrying that same blistering speed while incorporating clips from Welles’ films, TV spots, the films of those who also worked on The Wind, even one of the best uses of Star Wars I’ve seen yet. And yes, I’m including that film’s own sequels in that assessment. It’s this amazing showing of hyperlink narrative, even using Welles’ own words in response to the interview footage and Alan Cumming’s fantastic narration, that feels like what Myra Breckinridge was aiming for but hideously failed to capture.

But at the end of the day, as a depiction of a man in an act of heartbreaking desperation to finish his swan song, this benefits form all the background details that went on behind the scenes. Like how cinematographer Gary Graver had to work on porno flicks to get paid while working on The Wind, with Orson himself helping to edit them just to get him back on set. Or how the film’s two main stars, John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich, made critically-acclaimed films during the production’s history, all of which wound up getting more buzz than Orson would see in his lifetime. Or how the Iranian revolution of 1979 would end up spelling doom for the entire affair, in a turn of events that need to be seen to be believed.

All of this, with the actual film in mind, makes this whole endeavour feel like something that just had to happen. Those man hours, those exhaustive schedules, all that money and intent poured into making it complete; Orson’s soul likely wouldn’t lay down to rest until this thing was finished. While the actual completion of the film isn’t part of the documentary’s narrative, it is an inseparable part of it, showing the groundwork for its eventual completion as something wholly necessary. As a documentary about a film that was never finished (the premiere of the original film was the day after this one's, at the same festival no less), it does the most important thing: It makes the film itself into something worth cherishing in its sheer existence.

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