Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Weaver of Shadows and Dreams

Personal Note: This review, although slightly edited, was originally written 11/29/06.

If I was forced to listen to one of those dull audio books, I would insist on them being read by Orson Welles (yes I know he's dead but that's beside the point). He had a rich, deep voice that is very much one of a literally giant well versed in everything from poetry to the ancient texts. Welles' voice is that of a wise, clever and witty man who is amused by certain things, trickery and fakery being one of those sort of things. Which is where F For Fake (1973) comes in.

Here Welles serves up a piece of documentary style film making that mediates upon deceit, truth, plus smoke and minors. What a troubled and comical web liars and geniuses weave: this is expressed in the film by covering not only examples of Welles' falsehood during his long and storied career, but also the works of the forger Elmyr de Hory and his hoax creating biographer, Clifford Iriving. While not excusing their creative misdeeds, Welles finds them to be relatively harmless, their works a funny slap at the so called experts they managed to fool. Furthermore, by focusing on Oja's story near the end Welles shows that a master of fake painting and the legendary Picasso are not so different after all: art is simply a matter of skill, as even Picasso discovers that he is no more honest than Oja's grandfather.

Another interesting matter of note is how much of a coda this film is in regards to Welles' life and career. Death and the end of everything is mentioned more than once, and Welles even sits on a bench and reminisces about his start in acting, plus how he ended up in Hollywood. Naturally his classic "War of the Worlds" radio program is included, for it is one of the most famous hoaxes in American history. Through this segment, Welles to a certain extent becomes part of the documentary himself, and really only Welles could have made a movie covering his own life, even though he rejects using standard movie and documentary styles of foolishly trying to cover someone's life in 90 minutes.

Charlatan is a term that Orson Welles may us to describe himself, and the term could also cover many of his characters in his movies as well. But perhaps a more accurate term is magician, really. Welles actually performs several magic tricks in the film while gleefully telling the audience that "The events in this film are true," (the film even has a sign at the beginning that contains the words "Everything In This Film is Strictly Based on the Available Facts"). With F For Fake, it is clear that he has pulled off a most wondrous trick indeed. 100

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