This is my entry for “F” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “F” documentaries I’ve reviewed are 56 Up, Finding Vivian Maier, Four Days in October, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Title: F for Fake
Release Date: 1973
Director: Orson Welles
Production Company: Les Films de l’Astrophore | SACI | Janus Film und Fernsehen
This quirky film straddles the line between documentary and docudrama, but does it for the purpose of its theme: fakery. What is real and what is truth? We are deceived by forgers and hoaxers, but magicians, actors, and film makers are also fakers. The quick editing style emphasizes to the viewer that they can’t believe everything that they see, even in this movie. Orson Welles narrates and appears in the film as it covers various threads and he brings attention to his misdirection.
The putative topic of the film is Elmyr de Hory, an art forger who lives on Ibiza and claims to have forged paintings he made on display in museums around the world. Elmyr shows no regret for his fakery and in fact believes he does the art world a service by providing paintings that bring people joy. Elmyr was made known to the world through a 1969 biography by another Ibiza resident Clifford Irving. Turns out, Irving is also a forger who published a fabricated biography of Howard Hughes in 1971. Hughes himself is of great interest to Orson Welles, and we even see Welles standing outside the Las Vegas hotel where Hughes lives, although Hughes is not directly related to the theme of fakery.
Welles, of course, has his own history of fakery. As a 16-year-old, he lied about having acting experience on Broadway in order to get a role at a theater in Ireland. He is of course famous for his 1938 radio production of War of the Worlds which was presented as a news broadcast, causing panic for listeners who didn’t realize it was fictional. And here he acts as an unreliable narrator in a documentary that deconstructs the idea of documentary film as we watch it.
What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:
One of the more unusual elements of this film is the appearance of Oja Kodar, a Croatian actress with whom Welles had an extramarital relationship during his final two decades. She is first seen in the opening of the movie walking in a short dress as various men leer at her, purportedly filmed for an experiment she was making about the men being unaware they are being filmed, but otherwise unrelated to the forgery story. She returns in the final sequence where she joins Welles to dramatise a story of her modeling for Pablo Picasso and her grandfather making forgeries of Picasso’s work. It turns out that Kodar (which is not her real name) wrote and directed some of these sequences without getting any credit, and so just another level of fakery.
If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:
I watched the Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop for last year’s A to Z Challenge, and in retrospect it’s practically a sequel to F for Fake. Both movies deal with the art world, and undermining the pretensions of the art market by using deceit to tell stories of deceit. These two movies would make an excellent double feature.
2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II
If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:
- 2016: A journey through my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston.
- 2017: A spontaneous photograph each day.
- 2018: Watched and reviewed documentary movies.
And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:
- Book Reviews
- Movie Reviews
- Beer Reviews
- Music Reviews and Writing
- City Stories, expository writing about my experiences in various cities
And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.