A nicer kind of tor­ture

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The Blues

A care­ful pre-credit se­quence sees the Far­relly Broth­ers er­satz – two ripped, younger gentle­men, one shirt­less – de­liver a mes­sage to the kids: “The point is this movie is all about fun and games so please play safe at home.” It’s a harm­less fun coda to a harm­less, fun movie. Char­la­tans of the world unite. A con­jurer (Welles) at­tracts a street crowd as he changes keys into coins and pro­duces a fluffy, white rab­bit. A girl (Oja Ko­dar) walks down the street in an eye-catch­ing miniskirt. Gentle­men gawk­ers duly gawp, un­aware that cam­eras are trained on their turn­ing heads. “Look at them act­ing away as if they were in a movie,” chuck­les Welles. “Grand lar­ceny!” The au­thor en­vis­aged F for Fake as a new kind of film, a cel­lu­loid cu­rio com­pris­ing in­ter­views, ar­chive footage, can­did pho­tog­ra­phy, and tan­gents. All the while, our ami­able, vel­vet-voiced nar­ra­tor and guide re­hearses ar­gu­ments per­tain­ing to truth and fic­tion. re­al­ity and art. He makes for Ibiza, “an is­land in the sun where lost souls can find one an­other”, to visit with art forger Elmyr de Hory and de Hory’s sim­i­larly fan­ci­ful bi­og­ra­pher, Clif­ford Irv­ing. Welles swoons over Chartres, marvel­ling at the French cathe­dral’s “rich stone for­est” and its po­ten­tially post-hu­man tes­ta­ment “to what we had in us”. It’s a mono­logue many crit­ics re­gard as the most pro­found in all cinema in a film that loudly broad­casts its as­so­ci­a­tion with bull­shit and bull­shit­ters.

F for Fake trades on such screwy dia­lec­tics. Welles, an ac­com­plished ma­gi­cian in real life, harks back to early Soviet film prac­ti­tion­ers with a view of cinema that forms a nexus be­tween art and sci­ence. His pre­de­ces­sors duly stacked one con­flict­ing im­age on top of an­other so that the flow of cel­lu­loid was con­sis­tently coun­ter­pointed by the shock of jux­ta­po­si­tion. No pic­ture since Eisen­stein’s death ex­em­pli­fies the es­ca­lat­ing power of mon­tage quite like Or­son Welles’s swan­song, and no pic­ture raises the cur­tain on the method­ol­ogy quite so high.

Mostly, though, it’s mad stuff al­to­gether. “In case . . . it seem(s) like there’s go­ing to be some trick­ery in this film about trick­ery, we’ll re­peat our prom­ise again in writ­ing: for the next hour ev­ery­thing in this film is based strictly on the avail­able facts.” Oh, Or­son­Welles, sir: you do go on. The one-time per­pe­tra­tor of an in­va­sion hoax and the wun­derkind be­hind Ci­ti­zen Kane had spi­ralled out of fash­ion and out of Hol­ly­wood by the time he came to make F for Fake in 1974. The film was his last com­pleted ven­ture in a ca­reer marred by shaky fi­nances and un­fin­ished projects. F for Fake places its cre­ator cen­tre stage as a daz­zling show­man and an in­cor­ri­gi­ble prankster. The film is hap­haz­ard and wil­fully post­mod­ern, but it’s ex­actly where Welles ought to be.


Di­rected by Bobby Far­relly and Peter Far­relly. Star­ring Chris Dia­man­topou­los, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Jane Lynch, Larry David, Sofia Ver­gara, Jen­nifer Hudson, Ni­cole "Snooki" Polizzi, Mike "The Sit­u­a­tion" Sor­rentino

Will Sasso, Chris Dia­man­topou­los and Sean Hayes in The Three Stooges

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