Recently, Netflix has made a splash in the film industry by enlisting major directors to helm original movies and television series. But none of them have the resume of the late Orson Welles, a Hollywood legend who passed away in 1985 without completing his last film, The Other Side of the Wind. Over the years, Welles' friends worked together to complete the "New Hollywood" film, a Netflix Original whose turbulent production history is detailed in the complementary Netflix documentary They'll Love Me When I'm Dead. As a piece of filmmaking, The Other Side of the Wind is provocative, innovative, and emblematic of Welles' visionary mind.
Peter Bogdanovich and John Huston are the driving forces of The Other Side of the Wind. They didn't necessarily know how the film would end, or even what it all meant, but they lended their talent anyways. Huston has all the bravado of a director whose seen it all, a man who maybe isn't acting, per se. In a way, the same applies to Bogdanovich, a critic-turned-filmmaker who was relatively unknown when production began, but was quite accomplished and maybe a bit over-confident. At times, Welles appears to be trolling the performers during The Other Side of the Wind, all the while highlighting their best attributes. And the film's meta-narrative allowed Welles to then shift gears by transitioning from a documentary-style approach to a commentary on the New Hollywood movement. The Other Side of the Wind will always be compared to Welles' early classics, and that's fair. Somehow, it feels relevant and edgy in 2019; quite the accomplishment for a respected filmmaker who struggled to get financial backing from Hollywood while he was alive.
In 2017, Bong Joon-ho's Okja suggested that Netflix was on the verge of changing the film industry. Two years later, the film remains one of the best Netflix Originals, as it shifts from a family-friendly adventure movie to sociopolitical commentary about corporate greed. With a premise centered around a massive super pig, Okja is breathtaking in how Joon-ho films the outdoors sequences set in South Korea, along with the subsequent thriller scenes. In addition, both Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal provide a strange yet effective amount of comedic relief, as their characters’ personalities overshadow what lies beneath.
Just as social media can manipulate societal narratives and alter one’s sense of reality, Okja shows how well-meaning individuals can get caught up in a game they may not be ready to understand. The collective performances are superb across the board, and - at the time of release - Joon-ho’s inventive filmmaking teased what Netflix could accomplish with future productions. Okja will knock you down, lift you up, and leave you thinking about how the fictional narrative translates to the real world.
In the past, Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón directed films like Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Gravity - all of which paved the way for the passion project Roma. Of course, the aforementioned films look nothing like Cuarón's 2018 Netflix Original, a film that ultimately landed 10 Oscar nominations and won three awards for Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography. But Roma isn't a cryptic art house film that was made for snobs, it was made for audiences to feel viscerally, and to connect with. While the narrative is distinctly Mexican, Roma is fundamentally about family.
Much like Italian Neorealism films that emerged after World War II, Roma features a non-professional cast. And just like French New Wave films of the late '50s and early '60s, Roma has a unique visual style, most notably in how Cuarón stages the characters and frames the cityscapes. For Netflix, Roma's success implies that even more acclaimed international auteurs will join forces with the streaming service in the future, while the pending acquisition of the world-famous Egyptian Theatre suggests that future Netflix Originals may indeed have theatrical screenings on a regular basis, at least in Hollywood. Whatever happens, Roma is Netflix's crowning achievement thus far; a film that will hopefully inspire passion projects across various genres.