F for Fake

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F for Fake
Directed by Orson Welles
Produced by François Reichenbach
Dominique Antoine
Richard Drewitt
Written by Orson Welles
Oja Kodar
Starring Orson Welles
Oja Kodar
Joseph Cotten
Elmyr de Hory
Clifford Irving
François Reichenbach
Gary Graver
Music by Michel Legrand
Cinematography François Reichenbach
Editing by Marie-Sophie Dubus
Dominique Engerer
Distributed by Flag of the United States Specialty Films
Release date(s) Flag of the United States September 25, 1975
Running time 85 min
Country France / Iran / West Germany
Language English / French / Spanish

F for Fake (French: Vérités et Mensonges) is the last major film completed by Orson Welles. Initially released in 1974, it focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger; de Hory's story serves as the backdrop for a fast-paced, meandering investigation of the natures of authorship and authenticity, as well as the basis of the value of art.

Far from serving as a traditional documentary on Elmyr de Hory, the film also incorporates Welles's companion Oja Kodar, notorious "hoax-biographer" Clifford Irving, and Orson Welles himself, in an autobiographical role. In 2005 The Criterion Collection released the film on DVD.


[edit] Plot

Several narratives are woven together throughout the film, including those of de Hory, Irving, Welles, Howard Hughes and Kodar.

About de Hory, we learn that he was a struggling artist who turned to forgery out of desperation, only to see the greater share of the profits from his deceptions go to doubly-unscrupulous art dealers. As partial compensation for that injustice he is maintained in a villa in Ibiza by one of his dealers. What is only hinted at in Welles's documentary is that de Hory had recently served a two-month sentence in a Spanish prison for homosexuality and consorting with criminals. (De Hory would commit suicide a few years after the release of Welles's film, on hearing that Spain had agreed to turn him over to the French authorities.)

Irving's original part in F for Fake was as de Hory's biographer, but his part grew unexpectedly at some point during production. There has not always been agreement among commentators over just how that production unfolded, but the now-accepted story [1] is that the director François Reichenbach shot a documentary about de Hory and Irving before giving his footage to Welles, who then shot additional footage with Reichenbach as his cinematographer. In the time between the shooting of Reichenbach's documentary and the finishing of Welles's, it became known that Irving had perpetrated a hoax of his own, namely a fabricated "authorized biography" of Howard Hughes (the hoax was later fictionalized in The Hoax). This discovery prompted the shooting of still more footage, which then got woven into F for Fake.

Exactly one hour before narrating Kodar's story, Welles promises that everything in the next hour of his film will be true. Exactly one hour later, the film tells a story where Kodar sits-in for Pablo Picasso after getting him to agree to give her the finished portraits, and then selling not those very portraits but fake Picassos in their place. In the commentary to the Criterion Collection DVD release of F for Fake, Kodar claims the idea for this segment as her own. She also claims credit for the movie's opening sequence, which consists of shots of Kodar walking down streets while rubbernecking male admirers (unaware that they are being filmed) stop and openly stare. This sequence is described by Kodar as inspired by her feminism.

[edit] Hoaxes within the movie

  • During the girl watching scene, a couple of frontal long shots of the girl approaching are not of Oja Kodar but of her sister, with the same dress.
  • During the Howard Hughes segment, one of the archival footage features actor Don Ameche, and not Howard Hughes.
  • In the title sequence, practitioners is replaced by "practioners".

[edit] Locations

The Donjon de Houdan, seen in the Oja and Picasso story

[edit] Reception

F for Fake faced widespread popular rejection in the United States upon its release, though it fared better commercially in Europe.[citation needed] Critical reaction ranged from praise to confusion and hostility, with many finding the work to be indulgent or incoherent.[citation needed] F for Fake has, however, grown in stature over the years and is now often considered not only a film classic, but a precursor to modern editing techniques as well as a popularizer of more avant-garde methods.[citation needed] As the film embraces everything from self-conscious notation of the film process, to ironic employment of '50s-era B-movie footage, Welles in essence was creating not so much a documentary as a "new kind of film," as he once told writer Jonathan Rosenbaum.[citation needed]

[edit] Style

F for Fake is often judged a masterpiece of the art of editing [2] — a key subject of the film itself, which at many points shows Welles sitting at his editing desk as he narrates. Welles and his assistants worked on the final cut for an entire year — shots are rapidly intercut almost by the second throughout, lending the film a quick-paced touch. One of the examples considered to be among the best is a series of near-wordless shots of Irving and de Hory seemingly in debate as to whether de Hory ever signed his forgeries (the shots of Irving and de Hory were in fact taken at different times).

Welles's autobiographical asides in the film reflect on his 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, which caused a nationwide panic with its fake news broadcast. In introducing this chapter of his life, Welles declares his uncertainty as to his own authenticity, as he believes he too has engaged in fraud.

[edit] External links

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