They'll Love Me When I'm Dead ★★½

Pretentious attempt to "contextualize" The Other Side of the Wind by sort-of telling the story of its lengthy genesis in the bombastic, fast-cut style of the film itself as well as F for Fake. When you're not Orson Welles, attempting to imitate Orson Welles is a rather foolish task to set for yourself (unless you're the fine voice artist Maurice LaMarche); everything here except the on-set footage and the actual interviews from Welles' family, friends and associates is extremely tiresome. Director Morgan Neville seems to have no resistance to the conceit of making all this, somehow, about his own talents and tastes -- I love Suicide and the Buzzcocks too, but what do they have to do with this? (Maybe I'm just jealous -- I couldn't even get away with playing Suicide when I was a bar DJ, so interpolating them in a film about wholly unrelated matters seems to me to require a lot of gall.) It would be different if this story needed or demanded this kind of treatment, but there's a reason the forty-minute Netflix doco A Final Cut for Orson (buried in the "trailers and more" section for the feature) is vastly more engrossing than this -- it sticks to the bare facts without embellishment and creates all the excitement and cinematic intrigue it needs just from that. Not that I'm opposed to avant garde documentary-making or else I wouldn't go for F for Fake to begin with; but this is a documentarian attempting to upstage his own subject.

And maybe I'm too protective of Welles but I'm a little sick of the narrative that continues to be propagated that he spent most of his career as a downtrodden victim of the system. It's better than the American Experience episode The Battle Over Citizen Kane in that it doesn't try to parallel him with a monster like Hearst, but it doesn't exactly demonstrate a great understanding of his body of work -- it gives mere lip service to his films between Kane and Wind and totally ignores the political aspects of his exile. Nearly every talking-head with anything to say about Welles' character is cut off before they can really delve in with any serious insight; was his daughter Beatrice allowed to emit more than three sentences? Is there meant to be a (potentially salient) parallel between his and Gary Graver's treatment of their families? Is that subject relevant here? Then why is it so tossed off, cheap and directionless? Why do all of Oja Kodar's trenchant insights seem to be dutifully reproduced then mostly ignored? Welles himself seemed to consider her the author of Wind as much as he was. And does Peter Bogdanovich's own downfall, which can be blamed far less than Welles' supposed one on external factors, really belong in this story? Also, does his bristling at being made fun of on The Tonight Show require us to presuppose that Welles had no private reasons to be somewhat sharp in his treatment of Bogdanovich, filmed ominously in odd shadowed angles that make him look even older than his 79 years, by that point? The film certainly presents it that way. (I like Bogdanovich plenty but you can't spend a lot of time reading about him without quickly gathering why some would be uncomfortable and hostile toward him, even/especially after years of involvement in his life.) Maybe at bottom I just think it speaks poorly of our cinematic culture that we need a two-hour dissection of the world surrounding The Other Side of the Wind, little of which revolves around its thematic content as opposed to its theoretical connections to Welles' life, in order to appreciate it. Admittedly I'd have few issues with this as a DVD supplement; creating and considering it as a capital-f Film just insults me as an audience member, frankly. My feeling is that we don't need stultifying movies like this when we have inventive, imaginative movies like Wind; since we don't get a lot of those anymore, though, maybe my beef is with the movie era I'm living in and not so much with this title.

All that said, it's a great joy to be allowed to watch Welles direct (and interact with Huston), however briefly, and to spend time with him in vintage interviews and such, where he's shown to be gregarious and invested in his own legacy. It might be an even greater joy to hear Cybill Shepherd, her voice completely untorn by the decades, rant about Welles' love of Fudgesicles and what a pain in the ass he was as a houseguest.