F For Fake

"Extraordinary"

F For Fake Review


I've never seen another film like F for Fake, and if you invest a quick 90 minutes in it I'll wager you'll come away with the same dazed and breathless feeling that I had.

F for Fake was, depending on how you look at it, Orson Welles last feature film as a director, and -- as Peter Bogdanovich describes it in an insightful introduction -- it's not quite a documentary but rather a "documentary essay" about trickery and fraud in its various incarnations.

The centerpiece of Fake is renowned art forger Elmyr de Hory, probably the most successful of his kind. Along for the ride is Clifford Irving, de Hory's biographer, who spars with him in various Q&A sessions. But Irving himself is also a fraud: He wrote a celebrated biography of the then-living Howard Hughes, which turned out to be an elaborate hoax (one which made him millions). Welles also turns the camera on himself: He faked out the country with his War of the Worlds, and he explores the fallout of that famous radio show here. Other segments detour from one topic to another, ending up with a story about 22 potentially forged Picasso sketches.

Structurally F for Fake is complicated, intricate, and fascinating. All the footage of de Hory and Irving is taken from an old BBC documentary, which Welles re-edits and narrates with his commentary. But Welles isn't a disembodied voice in the film: He physically comments from a variety of locations and inserts himself into the story, almost like he was there when the footage was shot. Welles is seen, for example, from the editing room (creating a film within a film which can be seen over his shoulder on the editing table), walking in a forest shrouded in a cape and hat, and, inexplicably, eating at a restaurant with friends, where his narration strangely turns into a discussion with them about de Hory. (My favorite moment is when Welles actually interrupts himself to tell a waiter to take away an enormous bowl of shellfish casings, then commands him to "bring me the steak au poivre.")

Ultimately we are presented with a meta film, made well before meta was cool. Welles's thesis appears to be that you can't make a movie about fakery without indulging in a bit of it yourself. Artifice is everywhere we look: It's really just a question of degree. In typical Welles fashion, he keeps us guessing all the way to the bank.

Amazing.

The Criterion DVD includes commentary from a Welles scholar, plus a second disc of documentaries about Welles's unfinished projects and de Hory's life.

Aka Vérités et mensonges.



F For Fake

Facts and Figures

Run time: 89 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 12th March 1975

Distributed by: Saguenay Films

Production compaines: SACI, Janus Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Himself, as Special Participant, as The Girl, as Himself (uncredited), as Himself (uncredited)

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