Friday, 18 December 2015

F for Fake

F for Fake; mockumentary, France / Germany / Iran, 1973; D: Orson Welles, S: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, François Reichenbach, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Joseph Cotten

Orson Welles performs a magic trick for kids at a train station. He then goes to Ibiza to make an interview with the famous art forger Elmyr de Hory, who replicated various paintings which were sold for huge sums. Other people give interviews, contemplating if it is impossible to differentiate between real art and a copy. Welles also shows clips from his career, and his infamous "War of the Worlds" radio transmission, which fooled people into believing that Martains were attacking. He also speaks about Howard Hughes and Pablo Picasso, who allegedly made paintings of Oja Kodar.

Orson Welles' 12th and penultimate feature length film, "F for Fake" is a deliberately deceiving mockumentary that merged its style with its theme, resulting in a peculiar alloy where the art forger Emlyr de Hory becomes just a catalyst for the author playing with the movie style, demonstrating how everything can be forged in a movie itself: in one instance, after de Hory signs himself with "Orson Welles" on his forged painting, Welles ironically comments with: "A faked Orson Welles signature on a real Elmyr de Hory forgery". Welles also goes way beyond this story, and includes scenes of a black-and-white footage of UFOs attacking, in order to show how he himself "forged" reality in his "War of the Worlds" radio transmission, and also at times changes even the grain or the aspect ratio of the cinematography, to show the artificiality of the media. He 'breaks the fourth wall' a little too much, though, in the end creating a too vague, Godard-like film essay with a 'stream-of-consciousness' mood, where too many segments - such as Oja Kodar's episode where she is posing for Picasso's painting - run away and seem to be directing themselves, without Welles. "Fake" is thus a self-referential art-film for acquired taste. It is not among the ranks of director's best achievements, but then again, it would be unfair to set the bar so high and expect a new "Citizen Kane" from Welles - as it would be with any other director, anyway.

Grade;++

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