Friday, July 17, 2009

F is for Fake

Orson Welles would have loved videogames, I'm sure of it. Nobody seemed to enjoy getting the most out of a medium like Welles. The famous radio play that made his name was all about doing things with radio that were never done before, doing a play as a series of newscasts. Citizen Kane played around with film - albeit not quite as much - and we come neatly to F is for Fake, a factual documentary, except when it isn't.

F is for Fake is forgery. It's about a famous art forger Elmyr de Hory, and his biographer Clifford Irving, who made a fake biography of Howard Hughes. Between them, they fooled millions, and according to Elmyr, he's got his paintings hung in galleries around the world, masquerading as real paintings by famous painters.

That the film opens with a magic trick tells a lot about the nature of the story itself. It tells what I don't doubt is a factual story - for the most part - but it does it in a way that makes you inherently suspicious of the nature of the film. You know, from the way it is edited and the filmed, Welles is up to something. You're fascinated, and you are inclined to trust him, but you can't help but think there's a reason for it being a film about forgery, and if you're paying attention, you begin to think something is up.

It's amazing because it makes a point while telling a story, and uses the story to make a personal point Welles wishes to. It rewards paying close attention and close study, and there's a constant mystery about when he's trying to pull your leg or when he's simply telling the story. It's brilliant.

It's cut in a highly clever way as well. The cuts are quick, and as it uses some documentary footage, he uses freeze frame as a reaction shot. The story is true, but the edits are all lies, it's astonishing how clever it all is.

It's a very fun movie, but it has a purpose. In essence, it makes you appreciate trickery, and the clueless people who try to catch it. It's fun to find out how these fakes pass muster with people who claim to know it all about art and history. Welles seems to regard our forgers as some sort of odd folk heroes, and you can't help but agree. They pull the wool over the eyes of people who claim to know better. Welles, throughout the film, does the same, and it's just plain fun to watch.

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