Quick Film Guide: F for Fake (Orson Welles, 1973)

Vérités et mensonges
Directed by: Orson Welles
France, Iran, West Germany

Orson Welles is one of cinema’s most charismatic figures and it is a well-known fact that throughout his life, he nurtured a fascination with illusionism and knew a couple of magic tricks himself. F for Fake, Welles’ last feature film and his one and only foray in the docudrama form, questions the illusionist essence of cinema, questioning its realism and the impact on the artform of imagination, as well as imagination’s affinity with lies. But it also shows Welles’ delight at, coming towards the end of its life, exposing some of its behind-the-scenes machinations.

F for Fake partly draws inspiration from his own career, including the widely known episode of the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds that made him a household name. It also talks about forgery in a broader sense, recounting Elmyr de Hory’s career as a professional art forger, which serves as the backdrop for an investigation on the natures of authorship and authenticity.

The film is also defined by remarkable energy and excitement. It’s clear that even at this stage of his career, Welles had a desire to break new grounds and on F for Fake, he experiments a lot with creative editing techniques – something that film theorist André Bazin, who had praised him many years before for the realism of his Citizen Kane, probably would never think to have seen.

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