Alexand Voronov
Radegund is a tiny village in Austria, and in that village there is a man. His name is Franz Jägerstätter (played by August Diehl, best known, ironically, for his role of a Nazi officer in «Inglorious Bastards»), and he is a true believer, a family man, whose quiet life is about to be transformed by the Anschluss and the recruitment into the Nazi army. Despite the threat of an execution and friends urging him to comply, Franz refuses to fight for the Nazi regime.

Eleven years later, after his odd, yet entertaining existential trilogy («To the Wonder», «Knight of Cups», and «Song to Song») — in 2019, Terrence Malick returned to the straight-up narrative filmmaking — at least according to the Cannes festival reviewers — and also WWII. «Straight-up narrative filmmaking» is relative here — you could start watching the latest film from any point and you won't miss anything vital, just as it was with Malick's other work. It is not strictly speaking with a flaw, and this time the film even (somewhat) follows a certain story — something the director hasn't cared for in a while.

As usual, Malick paints the cinematic picture with broad strokes. A wide angle camera (Emmanuel Lubezki was not the cinematographer this time, but it's hard to spot the difference) captures an impressive pastoral view of the Alps, as well as country life — typical for the director. In the Malick universe, this symbiosis of the beauty of nature and of a simple life, represents everything that is worth fighting for. They become the central focus of a film that gradually turns into something of a Christian courtroom drama. In a way, Malick reaches a new frontier: suspense and intrigue do not matter here, since even those who do not know Jägerstätter's story will not be surprised. The finale is rather predictable. Malick, as always, is terribly serious and does not intend to divert from his self-built moralistic highway. The terrors of prison life are punctuated by the breathtaking mountain views. Malick uses this contrast to draw the line across his own world — between us and them, black and white. For him, nazism is a disease that infects human souls, an abstract, absolute evil, and only faith and love can stop it. It's a beautiful message — but after decades of anti-war cinema, even the most naive of a viewer knows that it's not that simple. We could end this article about «Life» here, yet there is one more question: why do most reviewers use the cliche'd term «return to form» in reference to this particular picture? Sure, «A Hidden Life» is 'the livelier' of Malick's recent films, mainly because of its' protagonist. The main characters of the «late» Malick are egocentric artists who stand above the rest of the world (sometimes literally). They struggle with discontent, regret and sometimes even boredom. These are struggles familiar to most people, but the director's ego comes into play: he just doesn't care about most people. Even Malick's fans might be turned away by how he handles his stories, and it is connected less and less to the creator as he becomes more disconnected from reality, and sinks into pretentious pathos. «A Hidden Life» has some of those characteristics, yet the viewers can understand Jägerstätter and his nonviolent resistance, so it makes it easier to see themselves in him. Nazism, and Hitler in particular, has long since become The Evil™, and for a good reason; that means Malick does not need to analyze his character's psychology in detail, we understand him as is, showing his tragic life is enough. Malick appears to be sincerely interested in telling the story, yet it leaves a sour aftertaste of being lied to, even if it is done so unintentionally.

Broadly speaking, we should not blame Malick for that. He remains an important part of world cinema history, the most prominent philosopher behind the camera. His stubbornness and his self-righteousness are admirable. In confessional epic cinema, only later Scorsese may be able to compete with him; the beauty of his work makes him the greatest artist of our time. Who cares that after many years, he might have started repeating himself, or that his work looks like an ad for a trip to Austria.

Alexander Voronov
Translated by Marina Bazarnaya
«A Hidden Life» (2019) is a three — hour film by American director Terrence Malick. The film tells a story of Franz Jägerstätter, a symbol of the Austrian resistance. He wasn't a fighter in common sense. Franz wasn't partisan and didn't fight with guns in his hands. In 1938 he voted against the Anschluss, while the majority supported Nazi Germany. Franz Jägerstätter was denounced and persecuted a lot by his fellow citizens. During the second world war, he was called up for duty. However, he refused to serve in the forces of the Hitler Wehrmacht, arguing that a real catholic can't kill people. As a result, he was shot in a camp near Berlin in 1943. In fact, a symbol of resistance against the French was an afterthought. It isn't shown in the film, but until the fifties, the Austrian authorities refused to perpetuate the memory of Franz. His wife did not receive the pension due to war widows. Before the American sociologist (and catholic) Gordon Zahn published a biography of Franz, his story was almost unknown to the public. Franz Jägerstätter was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI, who is not only a Bavarian but also a former member of the Hitler Youth and fought in the Austrian Legion. It's impossible to make this up on purpose, but Malick didn't say a word about it.

«A Hidden Life» trailer contains absolutely the entire plot: the Alpine idyll turns out to be a trap and is replaced by Nazi horrors. But even such a simple story isn't bad, given that since 1998, the plots of Terrence's films have been completely unclear. The uncomplicated plot is covered with the Christian idea of martyrdom and the barely defined theme of politics. But «A Hidden Life» is not Bunuel's «Nazarin» (1959) at all with a similar topic of Christian non-resistance to evil. By shooting a lot of beautiful plans, he forgets the starting point. Malick confusedly says simple things, he is an artist who can't go deeper into what he is talking about. «A Hidden Life» is a very preachy movie. It's no coincidence that the film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes in 2019. The story is structured and has a clear message. It has got a beginning and ending as well.

The story is unhurried and with tedious inevitability in a Malick-like way. The camera slowly floats over the characters and stops to show another stunningly beautiful landscape. Terrence thinks it's normal to include a two-minute mountain scene in the film that doesn't tell the viewer anything and has nothing to do with the plot. What looks habitually in a road movie is perplexing in a drama film.

Usually, the most famous cameramen work with Malick: John Toll shot «The thin Red Line» (1998), and Emmanuel Lubezki — «The Tree of Life» (2011) and «To the Wonder» (2012). This time the director doesn't work with the most famous cameraman Jorg Widmer, but the film still fascinates with its beauty. A movie for the meditation. Because of the great sound, the film is great not only visually. The soundtrack which was written by Hollywood composer James HowardThe Devil's Advocate» 1997, «The Sixth Sense» 1999, «The Dark Knight» 2008) is also very good, even though it sounds kind of like music from a new car ad.

Terrence Malick has been making films for fifty years and for such a long period, «A Hidden Life» looks strikingly immature. However, it looks good in comparison with some of his previous works. Especially against the failed «The Tree of Life» (2011). Terrence's early films «The Badlands» (1975) and «Days of Heaven» (1978) both enjoyable road movies inspired by Antonioni and included the director's name in film textbooks. Terrence Malick is the New Hollywood along with Kubrick, Scorsese, Cassavetes, Coppola, and other directors. After the first two works Malick disappeared for twenty years and returned with a confusing, lengthy, but quite clear work «The Thin Red Line» (1998). Since 2005, he has been releasing a film every two or three years, but neither the critics nor the audience appreciates them. The acclaimed director of classics of the 70-s new American cinema is admittedly mad.

In fact, it wasn't Terence who went mad. It was the world around him that changed. Even the director's way of making films remained the same. Malick so as Jacques Rivette, shoots three hundred hours (literally) of material and only then makes a movie out of it. Hence the sharp editing. It's necessary to somehow fit all the footage into the film. Terrence forgets not only about the audience, which is pretty common for «author's independent movies», but also the reason why he started shooting at all. Because of the large amount of footage, he eventually has to simplify his characters and their motives in honor to somehow finish the movie. Catharsis is crumpled, but look how beautiful the character stands in front of fields in the background. Now because digital technology is used in cinema nothing can limit Malick at all (it is much more difficult to work with the film both when shooting and editing). Nowadays he can shoot at least thousands of terabytes, and then sit for years and edit them. Here is an artist Malick who edits a dazzlingly beautiful story that he is not able to tell.

Antony Valsky
«The Other Side of the Wind» is a 2018 film by actor and director Orson Welles. It was shot in the mid-70's but came out 30 years after his death. The film's genesis is a true crime story that could be a whole article in and of itself. Nobody would finance the project, so they ended up taking money from the Shah's brother-in-law. The documentary «They'll Love Me When I'm Dead» tells the story.

Orson Welles is a magician of the film world, he would gladly have people run away from the screen like they ran away from the first Lumier brothers' short films. The famous «War of the Worlds» production that made people think there really was an alien invasion is his brain-child. And after his sarcastic take on postmodernist tropes in «F for Fake»(1973), the 30-years-long post-production of «The Other Side of the Wind» appears to have been his idea all along.

At 25, Welles made the genius film «Citizen Kane» (1941), strongly influenced by German expressionism. And if now Orson Welles is a legend of the Hitchkok level, back then Zanuck and Goldwin reigned, film studios loyal subjects. So, the painstakingly made 1941 film did not get to the big screen: the companies refused to release it, newspapers boycotted it. The aestheticism and use of the fancy techniques just for technique's sake made it a target for criticism from European intellectuals, such as Sartre. Ironically, Welles did not just influence US filmmaking; he is US filmmaking. The famous hall of mirrors scene from the flopped «The Lady from Shanghai» (1947) has been referenced a countless number of times.

Welles did not believe Hitchkok to be a good director. He disliked the golden age of Hollywood more than anyone else from the new wave; for him, Katharine Hepburn and Norma Shearer are terrible actresses. Exhausted with fighting American studios, Welles led a prolific creative life in Europe: he made «The Trial» (1962) based on Kafka's eponymous work, and had a role in Poronare (1962), the new European cinema almanac.

Welles might not be a trailblazer, yet he definitely was hard to work with, stubborn artist. He'd come back to the USA many times to work on TV; but the Welles we watch now is not how people saw him when he was first released. Even «Touch of Evil» (1958), a rather moralizing masterpiece was re-edited into oblivion for the cinema. From there on, Welles hasn't made a single movie in the USA, even after the rule of the Hays Code had ended. Well, he did make movies in America, he just never finished one.

Funnily enough, the mockumentary «The Other Side of the Wind» is about an unfinished movie. The director Jake Hannaford, played by John Houston, is making a film-within-a-film when the main actor walks out on him, so the film stays unfinished. Jake goes to his villa with his crew and the journalists to celebrate his birthday and joke about movies and Jews; then he dies in a drunk car accident. The story is non-linear, it comes from different angles and points of view, the picture mind-dazzlingly jumps between the countless different cameras. Sometimes it's a reporter's commentary for the imaginary viewer. The main plotline is easy to grasp, but reality splits into a multitude.

The film magician has tricked us again, it's «F for Fake», an Orson Welles' story that rivals the «Evolution is just a theory» nonsense. Yet if «F for Fake» is more or less a normal film, even if weirdly edited and absurd, «The Other Side of the Wind» is much more confusing. The magician is not in there, the magician is the viewer - if he wishes to be.

The plot of the Other Side of the Wind is layered, and yet simple, the picture mostly stands out thanks to a fresh technique and Michel Legrand's soundtrack. The editing and simplistic plot hide the context. John Houston, a director himself, is a parody of both himself and Hemingway. Film-within-a-film parodies the New Hollywood and European cinema of the time. It obviously mocks Zabriskie Point by Antonioni. Houston's young protege is played by Peter Bogdanovich, who was Welles's protege in real life. He was supposed to finish the film after Welles's death as well. This, plus the real production story and the Netflix release, and it becomes some kind of postpostmetametamodernism. Parodies grow in number and converse with each other. Philip Dick would die of envy.

Godard's «Weekend» (1967) gave a similar feel: the characters would meet people from other plays, and despite knowing how unreal their world is, they'd keep it up for the viewer. «End of Story. End of Cinema», he declares. Is it the end of his own absurdism, or of real life?

Orson does not play or experiment like Godard. The Other Side of the Wind is void of absurdism or surrealism. Yes, film-within-a-film is absurd, but that's how parody works. The «normal» film does not taunt the viewer, it is still watchable. It's not Lynch. «The Other Side of the Wind» is about the viewer: the art that does not exist unless it's seen, interpreted. Why should you interpret it if there are better things to do is another matter. It's your agency at work.

Making a film about yourself in which you are making a film about yourself, like in My Winnipeg (2007) - that's just a step too far. Watching for some random context that Welles just could not imagine - it can be fun, yet it's also useless. The dozens of cameramen are a technique, not an end result. «The Other Side of the Wind» is not «Eight and a Half» (1963), it's a satire. It laughs at directors, at film noir, at viewers, critics, cinema lovers, Cahiers du Cinema, at everyone. It's two hours of «The Emperor's (director's) New Clothes». Only the viewer is naked, too.

Apart from satire, The Other Side of the Wind is by itself a discussion with Godard, Antonioni, Fellini, all the masters of the era. The annoying film researcher Pister (played by a real film researcher Joseph McBride) asks John Houston: «Does camera show reality? Or reality is just a reflection of camera image?» It's a reference to Cahiers du Cinema, and Godard himself discusses it in the La Chinoise (1967). Pister also adds «Maybe a lens is a phallus?». It's a stupid cinephile joke, in line with Woody Allen's stand up.

John Houston's character, and Orson Welles with him, refuses to answer: «I need a drink». That's the same character who at the end of the film says you can still young people's life energy by shooting them on tape. Yep, this kind of cliched shamanism. Half the scenes mention the names of directors who used to be famous 40 years ago. Who's going to watch something that lives and breathes 70s in 2020? Let's just all go home.

Anton Valsky
The great but forgotten Director Hannaford (John Huston), along with his young protégé (Peter Bogdanovich), is busy shooting a new film, where pretty naked girls walk in front of equally pretty landscapes. Generally, an Arthouse film. The director is going to present his masterpiece on his 70th anniversary. On the day of the celebration friends, enemies, journalists, and various freeloaders gather around him. After the celebration, a drunk Hannaford is killed in a car crash.

Even in 2018, with virtually unlimited technical resources, it was hard to believe that it would be possible to release a film whose director died 33 years ago. Taking into account an opportunity to access to unlimited technical resources. The release of «Wind» by the legendary Orson Welles is truly a great achievement. The director planned this film to be a harsh satirical comedy that highlights the realities of the rapidly changing Hollywood of author-based independent cinema golden age. The film was supposed to be one of the first mockumentaries showing the unpleasant sides of film-making (here you can recall Casey Affleck's«I'm still here»).

Welles' idea is clear — with one film, he ridicules the entire industry where the director had never become a full fledged member, as well as the pretentious upstart creators of the New Wave, thus killing two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, Welles' film never reached post-production... First due to lack of finances, and then because he died at the age of 70. For many years, the footage lay on the shelf, until it reached us, thanks to the power of streaming giant Netflix and the meticulous work of Peter Bogdanovich, editor Bob Murawski, and composer Michel Legrand. Immediately after the release of the film was announced, that excitement around its release was comparable with the arrival of a temporary exhibition of a Louvre collection on the walls of the MET. As with an exhibition, the expectation is often more exciting than the final result. No, the paintings are still there, but the artist is not the same. Melzi instead of Leonardo.

All the rebel energy of Welles and his editing talents are very difficult to identify in this monotonous, slightly incoherent comedy epic. Even with all the effort and money, it was not possible to remove the mothballs and old man's grumbling. To get a sense of all that this picture could become, it is enough to watch «F for Fake», another director's experiment with the documentary genre, a focus film that he managed to finish on his own. In this film the energy is palpable. «Wind» also falls into the series of films, the history of the creation and release of which is much more interesting than the films themselves.

Is the failure of the creative side of the film the Welles' fault or his successors'? There is no clear answer, but perhaps this is the bright side. Welles was a perfectionist, and even inside such raw material, in the tiny episodes of the film, the great artist can be noticed. Even this material can revive interest in his personality. Relational aesthetics won again because even while watching, somewhere in the middle, you catch yourself thinking — you still have something to say about the film. By the end, you eventually realize that it's not a bad idea to revisit Citizen Kane in the evening.

Alexander Voronov

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