Movie Diary 1/1/2019

The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles*, 2018). No way of knowing what Welles’ version of this project would have looked like, so this is a special event with an asterisk rather than an Orson Welles film. But I’m grateful for its existence. The editors have created something close to the disorienting vibe that Welles apparently wanted, and some of the cuts are extremely close to the kind of hodgepodge jitterbug editing in movies like Othello and Chimes at Midnight. The frantic style has the effect of limiting certain performances that might be on an intriguing track; certainly John Huston is variously zonked and fascinating (there are moments when he looks at people and you get a flash of what a scorpion Huston reportedly could be in real life). The film is so beautiful to look at (bravo to heroic cinematographer Gary Graver, who visited Seattle 30 years ago when Tom Keogh and I brought him to town, armed with some of the rough-cut footage), especially the pseudo-arthouse sequences of the film within the film, that you kinda want to see what Welles could do if he decided to make a straight Antonioni movie and leave it at that. The way Oja Kodar dominates the arthouse film but recedes into the margins of the larger story is curious; obviously Welles gravitates toward the charged relationship between the directors played by Huston and Peter Bogdanovich, but maybe Welles didn’t want to risk Kodar being seen as his Cybill Shepherd or something? All things considered, there may have been legit artistic reasons on Welles’ part that he never finished the project (I know there were many logistical and legal obstacles, of course), as he evidently considered the movie an experiment, a way to try something he’d never tried before. It’s never not a thrill to watch.

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