The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles, 2018). Nearly fifty years after Orson Welles shot its first footage and over thirty years since the master filmmaker’s death, The Other Side of the Wind finally sees release. Completed by a team of Welles devotees taking cues from his various notes, the finished product is a delirious tangle of metafiction conceits and arch visual tomfoolery. It bears some resemblance to the odd quasi-documentary F for Fake, made in the midst of the long production of The Other Side of the Wind. The film is largely confined to roughly a twenty-four hour period, as veteran director J.J. Hannaford (John Huston) celebrates his birthday with a sprawling party and tries to screen footage from his latest picture, which threatens to fall apart because of a dispute with the leading man (Bob Random). Welles constructs a narrative phantasmagoria that’s entertaining because of its excesses and rambunctious spirit. Even so, some trimming would have helped. As the film stretches past the two hour mark, the bleak joke of Hollywood indulgence wears thin. Impressively, though, the work is more than a curiosity. It stands on its own as a fascinating piece of cinema from one of the form’s most intellectually sprightly iconoclasts.
Three Identical Strangers (Tim Wardle, 2018). Tim Wardle’s documentary is about a set of triplets who were separated at birth and only found their way back together when they were college age, through freak coincidence. The trio made the mass media rounds in the early nineteen-eighties, various anchors and talk show hosts marveling at what seemed little more than an amusing human interest story. There were many more twists to come, however, and Wardle’s storytelling makes exemplary use of jarring reveals of veiled history. The enduring consideration of nature versus nurture is obviously well-represented, but Wardle also nudges into the complexities of medical ethics and corrosive celebrity. There’s a little too much use of dramatized recreations of past event for my taste, and other mechanics of the documentary sometimes show through. Those are admittedly quibbles. Overall, it’s sharp and engrossing.
All the Money in the World (Ridley Scott, 2017). Ridley Scott’s rescue job of this film remains its most remarkable element. The choice to recast Kevin Spacey after his reprehensible personal behavior is completely understandable, but the decision to complete all necessary reshoots in a single week of work while sticking to a release date that was less than a month out is the stuff of madness. Spacey’s ceded role of J. Paul Getty has a lot of screen time in this depiction of the early-nineteen-seventies kidnapping of one of the obscenely wealthy business magnate’s grandchildren. It’s a curiosity why Spacey was cast in the first place. The two Oscars in his trophy case don’t change the simple fact that he required a thick layer of makeup to sell the role, while any number of older actors — including Christopher Plummer, recruited to take over — could get the job done with, you know, acting. If only Scott had taken the opportunity to also erase and replace Mark Wahlberg, playing a fixer in Getty’s employ, he may have really had something. For a good portion of its running time, All the Money in the World shows potential to be one of Scott’s best, flush with insights about the people and the strange strata of capitalistic culture it follows. In particularly. Dariusz Wolski’s rich cinematography helps Scott create images as striking as any he’s previously put in the screen. Then there’s the performance of Michelle Williams as the mother of the abducted Getty scion. The script allows for the blasts of raw emotion that are among her specialties, but she also does some shrewd character work, building the woman’s fortitude with carefully applied layers. David Scarpa’s screenplay falls apart at the end, taking too many dramatic liberties in order to heighten the drama, entirely needless embellishments given the fraught particulars of the real story.