Favorites: F for Fake
Directed by Orson Welles
Written by Orson Welles, Oja Kodar
Produced by François Reichenbach, Dominique Antoine, Richard Drewitt
Starring Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, François Reichenbach, Laurence Harvey
This tribute to frauds and chicanery by American cinema's rotund doyen disbosomed his enduring innovation with idiomatic economy by expanding the breadth of documentary form and style. Welles profiles a trio of impostors: embattled, consummate art forger Elmyr de Hory, his biographer Clifford Irving (himself notorious for inditing the sham Howard Hughes autobiography) and himself, the guileful stage magician who'd famously illuded a credulous interwar radio audience to the conviction that Martians had invaded New Jersey. With a profusion of often specious interviews and anecdotes, facetious speculation, convivial discourse, edited artifice and the allure of his leggy trophy wife Oja Kodar, Welles plumbs the mythoi of his subjects with relative indifference to veracity, knowingly betraying the fine (if extant) line delineating art and entertainment from skulduggery. Natheless, his excursive narrative is neither nugatory nor exclusively preoccupied with matters duplicitous: from one brilliantly cut sequence in which Hory and Irving (shot individually) appear tensely discordant as the former struggles to extenuate, Welles deftly segues to a profound meditation on the universal transience of life and attainment alike. Few filmmakers have showcased themselves with such indulgence or substance, surpassing most of his contemporaries and rivalling the visionary New Hollywood successors who esteemed him in veneration. Never mind what's authentic or counterfeit herein; for every ball in each of the obese master's dexterous hands, he's three lofted, and the assiduous craft evident in his intriguing disquisition, painstaking conjoint editing and prestidigitation verify the playful prowess of an interdisciplinary veteran prone to draw the curtain back, as likely as not to disclose what may be another illusion.
Recommended for a double feature paired with A Man Vanishes.