CineSavant Column

Saturday October 20, 2018


Friend Allan Peach was able to attend the Aero screening of the reconstituted Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind last Tuesday. When I asked what he thought, his answer was so thorough, I asked if I could print it:

“Glenn: The Other Side of the Wind was not what I expected. Most of Welles’ unfinished pieces had poorly recorded audio and often looked rough due to piecemeal and interrupted productions. The restoration crew did amazing work on Other Side. The sound track is consistently clean and the photography precise and often rather stunning. I expected the performance by Bogdanovich and those of the non-actors to be weak, but all were very good. Norman Foster was especially interesting as a lackey of John Huston’s Jake Hannaford character. He’s played in the mold of Welles’ Shakespearean eccentric comedy relief types, like Dennis Weaver in Touch of Evil: Kabuki-like over the top excessive. The professional actors were, as usual, great, with Mercedes MacCambridge, Paul Stewart, Edmond O’Brien, and Lili Palmer perfect. Gary Graver photographed Susan Strasberg, Palmer and Oja Kodar beautifully, they all look really stunning.

Although Stéphanie Audran and Polly Platt (who originally was to play the Strasberg character) were in the titles, I missed seeing them in the film. I don’t think Rich Little was in the titles but I saw him in at least one shot, perhaps an outtake from when he was to play the Bogdanovich part? Claude Chabrol was at this same time shooting Ten Days Wonder with Welles, and appears briefly with other directors such as Curtis Harrington, Henry Jaglom, Paul Mazursky, Cameron Crowe, and even the controversial Leslie Moonves. Huston’s character is based on Ernest Hemmingway, but comes across more like Donald Trump. He calls Kodar’s character Pocahontas, and humiliates Dan Tobin (from Welles’ 1958 TV short The Fountain of Youth). It is odd to see some of these actors on the screen together. George Jessel, for example, seems to be from another lifetime. Edmond O’Brien is fantastic, but looks really old and haggard. Lilli Palmer looks agelessly beautiful. Dan Tobin always looks the same age, neither old nor young. All seem to be from different eras, yet in the same film.

The editing style is fresh and inventive, a continuation perhaps of F For Fake but much more eccentric. In some ways, the editing becomes the most important part of the film. It feels very experimental. It is sometimes hard to follow, is at times slow and plodding and at others extremely fast paced and exhilarating. Comparing Other Side to Welles’ other films is like comparing Ulysses to The Dubliners or The Sound and the Fury to Pylon. Precise storytelling and sharp characters have been replaced by an abstract, fractured, avant-garde style. The film within the film is in yet another different style, but is also pitched toward the avant-garde. The sex scene in the car is like nothing else I have seen on film.

I was impressed by most of the dialog, which seemed both natural and well written. Welles wanted it to be improvised, but the editor said that all the were precisely as written in the script. The dialog delivery is staccato with many very brief lines. Critic FX Feeney said that the film is a dissection of the Huston’s character’s soul, but I can’t say I learned all that much about the character. It is a difficult film, not really a masterpiece as much as an exciting experiment in restructuring the nature of film. I need to give it more viewings to be more accurate in my feelings, but despite its flaws, it is pretty inspiring. Not to be missed, when it hits Netflix. — Allan Peach”

A mini- review for a mini-book with appeal:

Friend Phil Hall from the Online Film Critics Society has a new book out, a fun nonfiction pamphlet-novelette about a topic that just won’t go away — Bigfoot, the Sasquatch monster that rational thought and logical reasoning cannot make go away. A.I. Bezzerides was right: the more ‘civilized’ we get, the more we want to believe in irrational ‘facts.’ The more marketing-oriented our consumer driven political lives become, the more eager will be the hucksters out to profit from our gullibility.

Phil’s slim tome The Weirdest Movie Ever Made: The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film doesn’t waste time or space with irrelevant errata: he gets right to the case of Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, two Northern California guys that in 1967 set out to prove the existence of Bigfoot with a wind-up 16mm camera. They came back from the High Country with 59 seconds of movie film that have since been shown and re-shown ad infinitum with the admonition, “Is this real? Dare you believe?”

Normally we’d expect a run-around writer’s argument that presents no evidence but asks us to maintain an open mind, or as they never say in Reality Television-speak, swallow whatever bile they care to throw at us. Phil does indeed remain neutral, but he doesn’t refrain from telling the complex backstory of the two Bigfoot investigators, which includes the rather sketchy, contradictory tales of how the film was shot and developed. We then hear the odd story of how the footage was examined by multiple groups of experts, until Patterson found a couple that did not utterly discount it as a hoax. That limp endorsement led to a film being made about the discovery which Patterson promoted in a traveling theatrical presentation across the country — a scheme that helped kick off the ’70s practice of four-walling spurious documentaries, a fad now associated with Sunn Classics features. That 59 seconds of film had legs — yes, you too can read about how getting in on the action caused a falling-out between the partners (and additional partners) over a film that for some time was quite a gravy train.

Phil brackets his detailed research with a quick once-over of earlier ‘scientific finds’ that were proved to be hoaxes by overeager promoters. He also gathers reactions from a number of interested parties as to whether the film could possibly be real. Some of the analyses of the film delve fairly deeply into the way the Bigfoot/Sasquatch creature doesn’t walk like an ape or really like a man either. Personally, I haven’t seen the film in a while, but to me the shot looked like an outtake from somebody’s backyard horror movie. The creature’s leisurely pace makes it look like a man in a suit, not trying to be a monster, but perhaps striding back to ‘position A’ to begin another ape-man take.

The Weirdest Movie ends up a good read for those that want to put this particular phenomenon under a microscope. Phil Hall has a light touch throughout but maintains a civil attitude, leaving it for us to decide if Patterson and Gimlin were fooling us, or if we have fooled ourselves and the hairy critter was genuine all along.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson