The legendary French composer will score the director’s long-delayed final film.
In news that should please any film history buff, the decades-long journey of Orson Welles‘s final, unfinished film, The Other Side of the Wind, is nearing completion. The film, starring John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich, is a mockumentary spoofing the demise of the Classic Hollywood studio system and the rise of the more experimental filmmakers of the 1970s — think Film History 101, only with Welles as the professor.
The multi-year shoot was notoriously troubled, and The Other Side of the Wind remained incomplete when Welles passed away in 1985. However, thanks to some dedicated producers, a crowdfunding campaign, and Bogdanovich’s consultation on the edit, The Other Side of the Wind will finally hit the screen in the near future, albeit in a far different way than Welles may have imagined: streaming on Netflix.
Spearheading this project appears to be yet another attempt by Netflix to class up its original film content and, in doing so, take a piece of the film lovers’ pie that’s now being consumed almost entirely by FilmStruck. But who are we to complain if we get to take advantage of content like this? The prospect of seeing the completed film, which is shot in both black and white and color in a variety of different media and includes a film within a film that spoofs Michaelangelo Antonioni, is mouthwatering enough.
Finally seeing The Other Side of the Wind via the ease of Netflix, instead of having to seek it out in an art-house cinema somewhere, is also an incredibly appealing prospect. However, the news that legendary French composer Michel Legrand is composing music for the film is what really excites me and should excite everyone else as well. This is a huge boon both for the film itself and for Netflix.
Legrand wrote the score for Welles’s final completed film, F for Fake, and according to producer Frank Marshall, Legrand’s signature jazz is what Welles had always envisioned for The Other Side of the Wind. One of the most celebrated and prolific composers of all-time, Legrand is also responsible for scoring Jean-Luc Godard’s A Woman is a Woman, Agnes Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7, the original The Thomas Crown Affair, and Yentl, among many others. He is perhaps most well known for his work with Jacques Demy, of which I am a huge fan. I’m also continuously disappointed that the average film fan doesn’t know these films better.
Jacques Demy’s collaborations with Michel Legrand, including The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (a film in which all of the dialogue is sung and yet somehow manages to be not annoying), The Young Girls of Rochefort, and Donkey Skin, epitomize what cinema as an art form is meant to be. They are comprised entirely of beautiful images, crafted with utmost care from the cinematography to the set design and meant to be seen on the largest screen possible. The storylines are deeply emotional and, without fail, revolve around the getting, keeping, and losing of love.
Watching these films, your heart will alternately soar and break from scene to scene. And Legrand’s music is a huge part of that. If you hear the iconic theme from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and don’t feel your heart rise up into your throat, then you’ve never really experienced what the magic of cinema can do.
If you’re unaware of the extent of Legrand’s influence on modern movies, look no further than La La Land. To be blunt, without Legrand and Demy, that Oscar-winning film would not exist. La La Land has the influence of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in particular stamped boldly across every frame, from its liberal use of color to its jazzy score all the way to its bittersweet ending. Yes, La La Land director Damien Chazelle deserved praise for his execution of these elements, but let’s be honest: pretty much everything admirable about his film had been done before and better by Demy and Legrand.
Every time I witness moviegoers swooning over Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land, I feel compelled to demand that they get off of my lawn and bunker down with Criterion’s fabulous Essential Jacques Demy box set — six films, five of which feature music by Legrand.
Perhaps this new high-profile gig of Legrand’s will help introduce his classic work to a new audience that is clearly hungry for his style, even if they don’t know it yet. After all, if it’s on Netflix, there really are no excuses. Why binge another mediocre original series when you could partake in a slice of cinematic history involving some of the true greats? It’s definitely cheaper than film school, that’s for sure.