I had the privilege of seeing this at the New York Film Festival. A sense of awe descended upon the audience as soon as the opening credits began. The fact that this film was finally completed and released is a triumph in and of itself.
Orson Welles' final film is chaotic and unwieldy, but also very haunting and melancholy. The soundtrack is amazing. There is frankly a sliver of a plot. An aging director attempts to make a comeback as Hollywood has drifted away from his era as he throws a big birthday party in which journalists, critics, admirers and some industry professionals join to celebrate. It soon becomes apparent that reporters are there to ascertain information about more than his work. His new film that is in the works is shown. We get to see an unfinished film within a film that is titled "The Other Side of the Wind", one that is sexually explicit.
The late John Huston portrays Jake Hannaford, the director whose approach to filmmaking has earned him a great following and his relationships with the actors he works with makes him a lightning rod of controversy. Huston's sepulchral voice and domineering presence make him flawless in the role as Hannaford. Peter Bogdanovich is well utilized as a younger, successful director whom Hannaford has taken under his wing but whom now Hannaford consults on how to better reach audiences of the new era.
This film is not flawless. The experience of seeing this at long last outweighs its drawbacks. There are some parts of this film that drag a bit. But there are also many, many scenes that are just astounding and I'm so happy they were finally brought to the big screen. Although this film is inconsistent in its narrative thrust, it returns very quickly to its busy, slightly manic state. I don't know if Welles deliberately left this unfinished. What I can say is that the editing is superb and provides us with a film that is a lasting testament to Welles and his legacy as a filmmaker. Highly recommended.