Saturday, February 11, 2006

F for Fake by Orson Welles

Last night I had the opportunity to review the Criterion Collection's latest DVD version of Orson Welles' long forgotten final film, F for Fake (1972).

A singular combination of documentary, essay, narrative, broad comedy, hoax, and cinematic vaudeville, the film began as a BBC documentary about legendary art forger Elmyr de Hory. Welles was asked to narrate, but instead, he took over the project, transforming a straight documentary about art forgery into a freewheeling extended meditation on Hory, real-life Hory biographer and notorious fellow faker Clifford Irving, Howard Hughes, Pablo Picasso, and the complicated relationship between creativity and larceny, art and theft. The film inevitably swoops back to two early touchstones in Welles' early legend: Citizen Kane, a fictionalized biography of William Randolph Hearst that echoes Irving's fictionalized autobiography of Hughes, and Welles' notorious radio production of War Of The Worlds.

3 1/2 stars out 5

I've read many reviews of this film, including an outstanding blog entry, but the most concise article I've read can be found here.

Should you find occasion to view this film yourself, for the most rewarding experience, I highly recommend screening the concise Peter Bogdanovich introduction first. The film itself is nonlinear and dizzyingly fast in both narration and editing which makes it difficult for one to hold onto the denouement while simultaneously being introduced to the characters and subject. However, with this short explanation, the film reveals itself as pure magic.


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