The Other Side of the Wind is the long-shelved belatedly completed film directed by Orson Welles and co-written by him and Oja Kodar. The film was produced on-and-off between 197076, when principal photography ended. It was finally released 42 years later on November 2, 2018.
The movie begins with the death of Jake Hannaford (John Huston), a legend from the Old Hollywood era. It then flashes back to his 70th birthday party, with the conceit being that Hannaford had attracted so much attention from a gaggle of film critics, film students, and biographers that his final day was recorded by several different cameras lying around the party. The edited version of his final days constitutes the entire film, dealing as it does with Hannaford wrestling with his fame, his legacy, and his attempt to revive his career by making a sex-and-violence filled movie in the style of New Hollywood filmmakers of the time. Over the course of the day Hannaford is followed everywhere by reporters, documentarians, film students, and biographers who all want to capture an element of his genius. Eventually, it is revealed that the production of Hannaford's movie (also titled The Other Side of the Wind) is falling apart and his own neuroses and insecurities are being exposed, leading Hannaford to question his ability to finish the movie as well as his own identity.
Due to various financial and rights issues, the footage languished on various shelves before it was rescued by a team that included director Peter Bogdanovich (a film critic turned writer-director, and character actor) veteran producer Frank Marshall of Amblin Entertainment fame (TOSOW was his first gig and marked the start of his interest in film-making), producer Filip Jan Rymsza, and Netflix who (with the help of an Indiegogo campaign) bought out the rights to the footage and were able to complete it after a legendarily protracted legal hassle.
The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2018 before getting a general release on Netflix as well as a limited theatrical run on November 2. The trailer can be seen here.
The Other Side of the Tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Hannaford is a major one. Billy Boyle is a recovering one, but he goes back on the wagon thanks to Otterlake's encouragement and suggestion.
- Art Shift: The film shifts between multiple film stocks (8mm, 16mm, 35mm) and color to black-and-white, and the effect is quite obvious and distinct when seen on HDTV on Netflix.
- Autobiographical Role:
- Brooks Otterlake, like Peter Bogdanovich, is a protege of an Old Hollywood legend (Hannaford for Otterlake, Welles for Bogdanovich) with a knack for celebrity impressions who has since broke out and become a wildly successful New Hollywood director in his own right. Oddly enough, Bogdanovich was the second actor cast in the part... for most of the film's production comedian Rich Little played the role. Similar to Otterlake-Hannaford, Bogdanovich and Welles had a brief falling out (as apparent by Welles' incredibly petty comments about him in Henry Jaglom's memoir), owing to the fact that Bogdanovich was legitimately torn between putting his career first and doing his best to help Welles, which Orson understood but still saw as a personal betrayal, and which he mined for his film.
- Jack Hannaford is John Huston, albeit a Huston who was less of a professional and less in control than the real man. He's the third-generation son of an acting family similar to Huston whose father Walter was considered one of the best actors of his generation. Huston was also a major Ernest Hemingway aficionado and was quite fond of emulating his idol by going big game hunting and doing other macho stunts.
- Hannaford's period of exile in Europe and inability to get funding and complete his movies are reflective of Welles' own career when the film was being made.
- Armoured Closet Gay: Hannaford is heavily implied to be a deeply closeted gay man who's in love with his star and unable to admit it.
- Chiaroscuro: The black-and-white shots show this, as do some of the color scenes, especially when Hannaford blows the candles on his cake and it illuminates the room. The film-within-the-film also shows this.
- Driven to Suicide: the movie opens with Hannaford's death in a car accident. By the end it is shown to clearly be suicide
- Everyone Chasing You: Hannaford is constantly followed around by a crowd of cronies, documentarians, biographers, and fans.
- George Jetson Job Security: Early in the movie, Hannaford fires his makeup artist Zimmer, but forces him to come to the birthday party anyway. Later, he says he fires Zimmer "all the time".
- Horrible Hollywood: The movie is a blistering send up of Old and New Hollywood, seeing both as being no different, and arguing that the film industry is corrupt to the core, being built on land stolen from Native Americans and perpetuating itself by exploiting young stars and actors.
- Hotter and Sexier: This is the Welles movie with extensive nudity and sex scenes, and crude jokes. Which makes sense since most of his films were either made during the era of censorship or they were Shakespeare adaptations (which do have old-timey crude humor, but not as staid when seen on screen).
- Fanservice: Hannaford's movie features several nude scenes with Oja Kodar.
- In the Style of...: Hannaford's movie is Welles' parody of Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point.
- Internal Homage:
- The movie opens with the death of Hannaford, and most of the film concerns characters (biographers, documentarians, film-critics) discussing his past with many stories and incidents bracketed throughout. Likewise, much of the film is people watching Hannaford's film-within-a-film on projection just like the start of Citizen Kane.
- Hannaford being a bitter alcoholic who only lets his guard down around an old European woman who feels he has run out of his future, is more or less Hank Quinlan as a movie director.
- Le Film Artistique: Hannaford's film-within-a-film is a deadly parody of the worst cliches of European arthouse films. Vague symbolism, extended static shots of characters gazing somewhere in the distance, gratuitous nudity, and thin characters.
- Lonely Together: At one point, it is speculated that Hannaford and Brooks Otterlake are only friends because nobody else can stand being close to them.
- Muse Abuse: Hannaford has regrets about doing this for all his films. He's also aware that he is himself being abused as a muse and inspiration by his young admirers and cineastes who want to feed of his life and stories for their careers, being constantly documented and filmed for his slightest moves with many trying to expose his past. Hannaford and others constantly discuss the system of exploitation at the heart of movie-stardom.Jake Hannaford: "Who knows? Maybe you can stare too hard at something, huh? Drain out the virtue, suck out the living juice. You shoot the great places and the pretty people, all those girls and boys - shoot 'em dead."
- Nightmare Fetishist: Hannaford relishes telling the story of how early settlers in California, especially Hollywood murdered Native Americans and mutilated their bodies and made trinkets of their bones and organs, gleefully enjoying the shocked reactions of his admirers. He even points out that there are crude messages and jokes on these bones.Jack Hannaford: "The inscription goes back to before all this was movie country. Just after gold was found, the Indian population dropped pretty quickly. And in ten years, about ninety thousand of them...just disappeared. Well, in those good old days, our gallant honky pioneers used to cut off Indian ears and pickle them in whiskey, for souvenirs. And on pieces of bone, like this, they'd write funny little jokes. 'I am off the reservation...at last.' And so are you, my dear. Perhaps you'd like to present this to our leading man. Right up his ass."
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Given the the film's nature, it's dubious to argue that the celebrites aren't harmed, but anyway:
- John Dale the young actor and star of Hannaford's film who he has a crush on evokes James Dean. Welles claimed that one of his inspirations for the film was a (possibly apocryphal) anecdote he heard during the production of Giant where Dean reportedly made fun of director George Stevens for being old. James Dean was also the iconic inspiration for many young men of The '60s and The '70s, many of whom modeled themselves on his rebellious persona and attitude for better and worse.
- Jack Hannaford is modeled on a number of Old Time macho directors, who were fond of putting on outsized larger-than-life personas, including John Ford, Raoul Walsh and John Huston himself, as well as Ernest Hemingway. Both Hemingway and Ford are rumored by biographers and others to be possibly gay or bisexual and compensating for it by acting like tough guys. As a self-destructive alcoholic Hannaford also evokes Nicholas Ray. During the making of Rebel Without a Cause Ray actually did have affairs with his male and female costars, much as Hannaford is believed to have done. Ford, Ray, Huston, and Welles himself, also spent a good deal of their later lives surrounded by movie-buffs and cinephiles, often struggling to match themselves to the legend foisted on them by their admirers.
- Zarah Valeska, the Germanic actress played by Lili Palmer, seems to be based on Marlene Dietrich and her friendship with Orson Welles.
- No Name Given: Oja Kodar is credited as simply "Actress".
- Not So Different: It's generally implied that Brooks Otterlake is much like Hannaford as he was as a young man (an arrogant, needy poser), and that someday he will become just like Hannaford at the end of his life. The opening narration, where Otterlake admits to being beyond caring how bad his past was, implies that this indeed did happen.
- Posthumous Collaboration: Michel Legrand, who previously composed the music for Welles's film F for Fake, came out of retirement to compose an original score for this movie.
- Rated M for Manly: Hannaford, like his inspiration Ernest Hemingway and actor John Huston, loves to hunt, go on exotic adventures, and drink whiskey. He also has a habit of bedding the girlfriend of whomever his current leading man is. His macho fixation is discussed and mocked many times in the film most notably by one of his admirers who points out that he doesn't have as many hairs on his chest as he pretends and only acts tough."You know, the bullfights and the big game, the whole macho bit. No, the truth of the matter is that as a macho, he ain't all that much. That chest ain't near as hairy as he'd like you to think. Yeah. Your guy's a big, pink lobster. Nothing's really tough. Except the shell."
- Show Within a Show: Hannaford's movie, also titled The Other Side of the Wind.
- Straw Critic: Susan Strasberg plays a thinly veiled version of critic Pauline Kael, who during the film's production published her infamous essay "Raising Kane", which questioned how much Welles truly contributed to the screenplay of Citizen Kane. Professional critic Joe McBride also plays a parody of himself. In the actual film, Strasberg's character is a lot more rounded than Welles' intent suggests.
- Warts and All: The film opens with a photo-montage of Otterlake narrating over stills of Hannaford's car-crash. He explains that the film we see is a documentary chronicling Hannaford's last days, and that the reason he hesitated releasing the footage is because he doesn't come off too well, but now he's too old to care anymore.
- We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: In-Universe. Hannaford is an old-time Hollywood hack trying to keep up with the New Hollywood and as such proves his mettle by making a pretentious wannabe arthouse film filled with obvious Freudian symbolism and gratuitous nudity that's basically softcore porn.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The opening narration by Brooks Otterlake is a weird example. Obviously if Welles had completed the film as intended, it would have been entirely different (and obviously not make references to cell phone cameras and CGI), but the updated narration by Bogdanovich in-character more or less does confirm the subtext that Otterlake would one day become like Hannaford.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: John Dale wasn't a poor runaway who was drowning when Hannaford rescued him and recruited him to be an actor; he was an aspiring actor from a private school who sought Hannaford out and faked his emergency to get in his good graces.