2) And, on a somewhat different note, but still funny, is “The Initiation of a Young Irishman,” by Frank McCourt (even all the decades after high school, it still takes some effort not to refer to him as “Mister McCourt”).
3) I’ve figured out at least one or two problems with The Other Side of the Wind. Two problems, really, but from the same source — the fact that it’s come out so many years after it was supposed to. Because, unusual for a Welles picture, it was clearly intended to be very much of its moment, and that moment is long gone now.
The major problem is that there’s a film within the film, also called “The Other Side of the Wind.” The story of the exterior movie (I’m searching for the best way to clarify this) is the last day of the life of the famous movie director Jake Hannaford (played, wonderfully, by John Huston), who is celebrating his 70th birthday and trying to raise enough money to finish his current film (the interior movie of the same name). It’s pretty obvious that the money won’t be raised, even apart from the fact that we know Hannaford is about to die. (Not a spoiler — that information is revealed right at the beginning, a device Welles used quite a few times, for different reasons.)
The interior movie, which we see quite a few scenes from, is clearly Hannaford’s attempt to make a modern, experimental, slow, apparently plotless, sex&drugs&rockandroll movie, something in the vein of Blowup and other movies which were highly regarded while Welles was making this one. Welles developed a style for it — different from his own — but now, decades away from the genre it was copying (and perhaps parodying), it’s just tedious. Wonderfully framed shots, no apparent story, many elements which could have been shocking at the time but certainly aren’t now — my attention wanders whenever it’s on screen.
Which is a shame, since the exterior movie — the story of Hannaford’s final day, and what happens to older directors in general, and all the people around him, with all their different motivations and schemes and secrets — is wonderful.
The other, secondary, problem is also related to the long time between then and now, in that a big theme, gradually revealed, is is that macho, Hemingwayesque Hannaford may actually be attracted to men. He discovers young actors, gets them to star in his movies, and in the process sleeps with their girlfriends (as a way of getting as close to them as he can without stepping over the line).
The idea that Hemingway was way less sexually monolithic than he presented himself was a pretty radical idea at one point, but it certainly isn’t now. Read The Garden of Eden (and I would certainly like to read the unedited version of that book — compared to the heavily edited version that was published long after Hemingway’s death). So, the theme doesn’t carry the weight in the picture that it would have at the time.
Oh, well. It’s much better to have what we have now than to continue to have just a couple of scenes.
4) More of “The Marvel Murder Case” soon, probably tomorrow. A whole chapter in Jan Sleet’s voice — that’s been a rare treat to write, I can tell you.