Welles’s last work and Claire’s coup

The supposedly shocking ending won’t surprise anyone who has followed the series closely.

By
November 8, 2018 20:25
3 minute read.
Welles’s last work and Claire’s coup

The Other Side of the Wind. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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One of the most anticipated movies of all time, Orson Welles’s final film, The Other Side of the Wind, has finally been released and is currently streaming on Netflix.

The story behind the film has as many twists and turns as any movie in history. Welles, who at 25 directed, co-wrote and starred in Citizen Kane, which is widely considered to be the greatest film of all time, had a tough time getting his movies made and shown after that. In 1970, he started filming The Other Side of the Wind, a satirical look at a macho Hollywood director, Jake Hannaford, who was loosely based on Ernest Hemingway and who was played in the movie by director/actor John Huston (The African Queen, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), but who is obviously also a stand-in for Welles himself. Welles had little financing and shot the movie in fits and starts until 1976.

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When Welles died in 1985, just 40 minutes of the film had been edited and hundreds of hours of footage were left untouched. Ironically, it took the streaming giant Netflix to bring the film to audiences. Netflix assembled a team led by the director Peter Bogdanovich, one of Welles’s close friends and associates, who also plays a key role in the film, as well as the film’s editor and producers, to sift through the reels and shape them into what, based on their knowledge of Welles and the movie, is as close to his vision as they could get.

We’ll never know what Welles would really have wanted, but the film, which had its big-screen premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, is a fascinating must-see for movie buffs.

It is divided into two basic sections: a mostly black-and-white story set on the last day of Jake Hannaford’s life, when he is feted at a birthday party in Hollywood, where the cast and crew of the film he is making are present, along with his friends, lovers and enemies; and color footage of the film itself, which stars Oja Kodar, a Croatian/Hungarian actress who was involved with Welles.

Kodar, who co-wrote the script, is exotic and gorgeous, but the camera doesn’t love her face quite as much as Welles apparently did. She looks more blank than alluring most of the time, and the movie-within-the-movie, in which she stars, plays like a parody of glossy, pretentious art-house hits like Zabriskie Point.

The best moments are the bitterly funny wisecracks about the nature of the movie business, and they invite discussion of an endless series of ironies raised by the film. Chief among these is how the last film of the greatest movie director of all time ended up being streamed on TVs, tablets and computers. It’s also ironic seeing the young Bogdanovich, a great director when the film was made, but who, like Welles, burned himself out, and is now known to young audiences mainly as Dr. Melfi’s supervisor on The Sopranos.

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To fully appreciate The Other Side of the Wind, you can also watch Morgan Neville’s documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, about the film, which is also currently streaming on Netflix.

“Men your age, they unravel very easily these days,” a young man says on the new season of House of Cards, the Washington political drama, to a middle-aged journalist fighting for his professional life.

These words are much more than an empty threat in the #MeToo era, and are especially apt on the new season of House of Cards, the sixth and final season of which is now streaming on Netflix and on HOT HBO and HOT Xtra VOD.

Kevin Spacey, who played the scheming, amoral president Frank Underwood and was accused by multiple young men of sexual harassment, is gone from the show, his character dead and buried. The new president is his widow, Claire (Robin Wright), who in one of many of the show’s bizarre plot twists became vice president.

Frank’s malevolence gave the show the jolt it needed, as it turns out. Without him, it’s a lot of intelligent, elegant people scheming with grim expressions on their faces. The supposedly shocking ending won’t surprise anyone who has followed the series closely.

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