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About the Movie
Trickery. Deceit. Magic. In Orson Welles’s free-form documentary F for Fake, the legendary filmmaker (and self-described charlatan) gleefully engages the central preoccupation of his career—the tenuous line between truth and illusion, art and lies. Beginning with portraits of world-renowned art forger Elmyr de Hory and his equally devious biographer, Clifford Irving, Welles embarks on a dizzying cinematic journey that simultaneously exposes and revels in fakery and fakers of all stripes—not the least of whom is Welles himself. Charming and inventive, F for Fake is an inspired prank and a searching examination of the essential duplicity of cinema.
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 49
- Fresh: 43
- Rotten: 6
- Average Rating: 7.8/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: A charming, witty meditation upon fakery, forgery, swindling and art, a movie that may itself be its own Exhibit A.
Fresh: An intriguing, enjoyable look at illusion in general and his own, Clifford Irving's and De Houry's dealing with it in particular.
Fresh: Welcome to the philosophical fun house that is F for Fake, stuffed full of questions about the nature of art and authorship, illusion and reality, lies and truth.
Fresh: F for Fake is as grand, multitudinous, and original as Welles himself.
A Real “Killer” B Movie (one of 237!)
This review is an excerpt from my book “Killer B’s: The 237 Best Movies On Video You’ve (Probably) Never Seen,” which is available as an ebook on iBooks. If you enjoy this review, there are 236 more like it in the book (plus a whole lot more). Check it out!
F FOR FAKE: “I’m a charlatan,” Orson admits in his introduction. “And this is a film about trickery. About fraud. About...lies.” It’s all that, and much more. There are four principal players in this story “rotten with coincidence.” The first is Elmyr de Hory, the world’s greatest art forger, who paints in the style of every modern master (we watch him paint a passable Matisse on camera, for example), and claims to have works hanging in every major gallery in the world.
The second “character” is author Clifford Irving, who wrote a book about Elmyr entitled “Fake”—and who would later become famous for attempting his own hoax, obtaining an enormous advance for a book based on an alleged interview with billionaire recluse Howard Hughes. The third character is Welles himself, a man who began his career with a spectacular hoax (the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast) and who then headed for Hollywood with the original intention to film a thinly-veiled biography of an eccentric millionaire—not William Randolph Hearst, but Howard Hughes.
If it sounds as though the film comes full circle, be aware that the above synopsis is only the first of numerous wheels-within-wheels revolving within the pinwheel of Welles’ penultimate film. This mind-boggling movie is a trip through the looking glass of truth and lies, which chase each other’s tails to the point that they become indistinguishable. (Consider the story of the man who paid for a forgery with a bouncing check, or Welles’ attempt to distinguish between real fakes and fake fakes, and you might see how these strange loops of deception spiral deeper, ever deeper.)
It’s a very personal document as well: a meditation on Art, and on the art of larceny. As Pablo Picasso (who becomes the fourth major character in the film) said, “Art is a lie—a lie that makes us realize the truth.” Welles would never confess to “committing masterpieces,” but at least he left us this final magic trick: a Chinese puzzle box for the intellect.
A Real Gem
This film is perhaps my absolute favorite by Orson Welles as he co starred and edited this rather complex movie/documentary on forgers and the craft of forging. Set in far flung 70's hot spots such as Ibiza, Las Vegas, and Nassau, this film is carefully edited in such a way as to provide a fast paced, entertaining look into the seamy underside of the art and publishing worlds in the late 60's and early 70's. Welles even had the stones to include his mistress Oja Kodar as his co-star in his own piece of trickery as displayed in this fast paced masterpiece. This is a great film for anyone who watched Richard Gere in "The Hoax" and who would desire to know the real story of Clifford Irving. A great film by a master of the art!