Orson Welles's last full-length theatrical (ahem, emphasis on
theatrical) film released before his death at times is almost like the
'News on the March' segment of Citizen Kane spread out in various
spurts, and then totally played upon. Like the magician and prankster
that he is (arguably one might consider Welles more of a prankster than
as a textbook faker), F For Fake is as much about illusion as it is
about the people who create the illusions. The film examines, chiefly,
art, and not just the paintings by its subject Elmyr de Hory, but also
film-making, writing (which includes signatures), architecture, and in
a way a kind of lifestyle in general. It's extremely appropriate that
Welles, who is always trying for a pure cinema (which is his genius,
past the occasionally diverting hubris), can tackle on his 'true'
subjects, Elmyr and writer Clifford Irving with such tact. And,
somehow, like magicians probably have to, he slips by following the
rules, fooling you every step of the way.
If this was just a film about its principal subjects- not including Welles himself as he has done (this is one of many films he starred, wrote and directed, but rarely has he been so candid about himself)- it would still hold some surface fascination. Coming from a generation that grew up after Elmyr had already passed on, and only knew mildly of the whole Howard Hughes story (of which Irving was apart of), this was all news. Which in a way made it hard to focus on here and there on the first viewing. Coincidentally with Welles's takes on the 'experts', I decided not to jump right away to conclusions like some critics even with film-making do. On the second viewing it all gelled together, like the deception in all the lines in Elmyr's Matisse's. We learn about some of Elmyr's history (including one historical note that gets only one brief mention as part of Welles's use of hints in all of his work). But it's not necessarily about that which becomes fascinating.
Just watching Elmyr, and him with Clifford Irving, the hoax author of a biography on Howard Hughes (err, the old-timer in a shrouded Las Vegas hotel Hughes), is enough to make it worthwhile for the whole hour which Welles promises at the start. Then, when Welles brings back a certain femme fatale in the form of his real-life love Oja Kodar, things become further mysterious. For a man whom mystery was the subject he loved most in films aside from Shakespeare, the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film are some of his most ambiguous, seductive, nearly pointless, but oddly cool scenes filmed. Suddenly, after getting inundated with sound-bytes and trickery with the editing style (which ranks with the best Welles and his team), verite camera-work (by a talented Gary Graver), and images that freeze up, zoom in, get inopportune poses from monkeys, and bits and pieces of a French villa and dozens of paintings, things slow down. If for nothing else, F For Fake is a masterpiece of tempo.
That's not to say that some of this will appeal to everyone. It won't. It doesn't have the instant accessible entertainment appeal of a Citizen Kane or intense ambiguity of the Trial. However for a certain viewer, there is a good deal of entertainment value- certain things that are mentioned, or even in just the way it's said by Welles, can be quite funny. Which helps considering the bits that might become top-heavy with Welles's love of quotes and pondering style of narration. It's a blend of character study, history, investigative journalism (both of the human subjects and of the ideas of forgery and painting and what is real in the mid 20th century society), and some fantastic styling. If you are a film student, even if you couldn't give a damn about Elmyr or the Howard Hughes hoax or Welles's own past of hoaxing with theater/radio/cinema, just to see how the film moves at times, how images fold and bend to another, the progression, it's rather exhilarating. And the only special effect is right up the sleeve, so to speak.
F for Fake
Action / Documentary
F for Fake
Action / Documentary
Orson Welles' free-form documentary about fakery focusses on the notorious art forger Elmyr de Hory and Elmyr's biographer, Clifford Irving, who also wrote the celebrated fraudulent Howard Hughes autobiography, then touches on the reclusive Hughes and Welles' own career (which started with a faked resume and a phony Martian invasion). On the way, Welles plays a few tricks of his own on the audience.
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October 22, 2014 at 04:40 PM