really not that good
this really is no more than a bunch of fakers attempting to out-fake each other. i consider that rather dull really and not my idea of a good movie. still, i suppose it takes all types...share
this really is no more than a bunch of fakers attempting to out-fake each other. i consider that rather dull really and not my idea of a good movie. still, i suppose it takes all types...share
Oh, if you could work one up I'd love to hear an intellectual response as to why this film is so great.share
This movie is a great conversation starter. I don't understand why some people don't like movies based just on what the plot is about. I thought this is a really cool movie, with great style, and great editing techniques. Loved it.share
Oh, was this a bad movie. The cheesy zooms, the ultra-1970's freeze-frames. The music, the dumb guys-checkin-out-a-hot-girl montages. So dated. It's almost unwatchable for that fact. But the....ah....how shall you say, substance, just was not there. It was trying to be really cute and clever, but it was really about NOTHING. And I know some of you may say that's the point. And I'm glad that you have found this movie. I personally could hardly sit through the whole thing. I did enjoy some of Orson Welles' monologues and the magic tricks. But my chief complaint has to be the lack of substance. There's nothing to latch onto, it's just a bunch of quick shots with no drama.share
Well, concerning the 'lack of substance, I think even Welles himself didn't mean for it to be much more than a souffle of amusing anecdotes on a theme - he's made some heavy duty flicks (The Magnificent Ambersons, Citizen Kane etc) but this was never meant to be one of them, I think we can be certain. It's just a light little documentary that is hopefully interesting and fun and charming to those that would find it so, I guess. And as for the cheesy 1970's stuff -- well, lol, it WAS MADE in the 1970's so of course it's now dated! So with respect, that's a bit redundant as a criticism.
"Long live the Organization For The Organized!"
Point taken, but the best movies don't give in to the trends of the era in which they're made. They stand the test of time. Sure, maybe it was popular to use zooms and freeze-frames back then, but it's sure not popular to do it now. I reacted based on what the current stylistic climate is. Easy Rider is an important movie, but when you watch it now, there's a lot of dated techniques that make it hard to appreciate. To the film's defense, it is often worthwhile to understand older films in the context in which they were made. But the best movies last much longer, without a need to contextualize.share
Yes, but it's kind of an inescapable fact that nobody making a movie, at whatever time, thinks that the techniques they are using are going to date as badly as they do. I think all artists in any field - filmmakers, novelists, painters, musicians, realize to some extent whether or not what they are doing is extremely trendy to their time, or if is has a chance of being timeless. However, most don't have a clue how their work is REALLY going to look to a generation of people thirty years in the future. For all we know, Orson, while knowing that freeze frames and whatnot were "up-to-minute", probably could not even guess just HOW dated they would seem in the future. Even geniuses can't time-travel and predict how far out of fashion something will fall in the eyes of future viewers. Give people in the past a break - many of were probably imagining some of this stuff would stick around. True, there ARE movies that managed to avoid datedness, but even then I would argue that the makers of those achieved that with a combination of not just caution - in as much as avoiding the use of anything faddy of their time - but also a little helping of dumb luck. Only we know who was wrong, who was right, what now looks dated and what doesn't etc. So I still say it's a redundent criticism.
"Long live the Organization For The Organized!"
The Wizard of Oz's effects have held up marvelously.share
Personally I really liked all the freeze frames and zooms. Certainly these techniques mark this as a 70's film, but since they were effective, I don't see how you could say they've dated poorly.
Most films have sound now, so are silent films silly for having intertitles? How about black and white films now that most movies are in color?
I was flipping through the channels and saw this on bravo. I admire mr. wells but this was a really bad movie.share
O_o thats like saying... Declaration of independance?!?! WHO USES QUILLS I MEAN COME ON!!! flick your bic or something!!!!share
For me, the reason "F for Fake" is so damn good is that Welles literally takes nothing, barely anything at all, and builds and builds using only his immense skill as a director and hardly anything else. He proves just how good he really is with this movie. Citizen Kane" and "Touch of Evil" have depth up the wazoo, this film is thematically empty, which is why it's so fascinating.
and "Easy Rider" is just lame. "Gimme Shelter" does a better job of examining the 60's.
i dont agree it sucked i thinkshare
Its a brilliant film thats not for everyone. Artist should be able to relate to the questions raised in this film because they will forever be asking 'What is Art?' clearly there is no answer but only perception. If a painting is magnificent when painted by picasso but then you find out its a forgery of picasso, is it not still a great painting?
Zooms and freeze frames, got news for you, they still use them today. I'm surprised you aren't complaining that they used a film stock made in 1970s to make the movie. Whats with the filmmaker? Why didn't he travel to the future and use a digital camera? You're reaching for things to complain about if you can't place the film in context to its time period.
The film is well ahead of even modern times, no film today is like this. It's not a documentary and its not a fiction film. Its something unique unto itself that could only have been made through the eyes of a certain film maker. Those of you who can't understand that or see it probably never will comprehend how hard just making a film is. Not to mention this is an independent film made in the 70's, not today when there is actually a market place for independent films.
Those of you who are so upset and angered by the 1970-ish quality of this 1970-ish production, heres a challenge: Why don't you put your money where your mouth and make a modern day film that stands the test of time. I bet you can't even make a good one by today standards.
F for Fake is not the greatest film ever made but its a nice addition to Welles' many difficult films. Fans of the film maker shouldn't miss it, artist should give it a try. And those of you who have trouble with things not made in the past 2 years, don't waste your time.
this is a great film and you must just really be against freeze frames and such things to complain of it as a major flaw you can't get around. it's dated in the fact that it looks like an older film. is that it's fault? it's an old film. silent films look dated for that matter. who cares?
this is a very strange doc with a broad topic not easy to explain to those who haven't seen it. i don't like using the terms "you just didn't get it'" or that's the point!" as defenders but it's a film with not a simple message or topic you can latch onto.
this movie really IS that good. one of welles' best. it really suprised me several times while watching it. first i just thought it was going to be about magic then it changes topics several times but with the same theme. i loved the "last 17 min" of lies the best. beautifully shot. i love welles black and white films but this film made me wish he'd done a few more color ones. i loved the girl watching part cut with the picasso picture for the story.
I don't think that it's "just" a ducomentary. "F For Fake" definately has a meaning. It's about the difficult question "What is art?" It is a movie made by a "charlatan" about a "charlatan" who writes about a "charlatan". It's a puzzling search for the truth behind art.share
i'm not against freeze frames. i am against pretentious swill that isn't even goodshare
I think the film posits several important questions that anyone intrested in art, or movies, should be able to apreciate. The advent of photography spurred artists to create work that was evocative beyond portraying life as it appears, leading to the work of many of the modern painters referenced/forged in 'F is for Fake'. If an artist is no longer gauged by his talent of representing figures/forms/landscapes/etc than what is the meter of determination that classifies Picasso a master and other's work expenable? In fact in film, the idea of auteurism has been argued since french new wave and the birth of independent cinema. This further abstracts the idea of authorship and further the qualifications of what constitutes art, extending its meaning to the status of a master craftsman. Welles tackles this issue, presenting the portrait of painter who has gain wealth and noteriety by forging/selling paintings of these masters (if my paintings hang in musuems for several months they become masters pieces, paraphrase). Then the critcism of such a man is further analyzed through the portrait of the forgerer's biographer and finally by Welles showing his own career's false pretenses. No one would claim that he is a fraud. The main goal of the multi-layered documentary seems to hinge upon the dichotomy created between what we are drawn to, and what we can rationally (because of other social institutions)define as better than the rest. Just as we are drawn to stare at a beautiful women jaunting down the street, but we laugh or shocked to see men young and old eye screwing this woman. The paintings forged are received and loved untill we find out that they are fakes, or we eat up a fake Howard Huges biography in the same way. This is not a long, drawn out analysis of the idea of truth, for one is fact and one is fiction. Rather he (welles) seemed to be concerned with the wieght of illusions, how we can beleive (or led to believe)and suspend our questioning. Not cognito ergo sum, but rather we have to see before we think and sometimes seeing is believing.share
I'd really love it if people who say things are bad can back it up. If not you just look like President Bush saying everything under the sun is evil even though he never quite elaborates on that point.share
Dull? This is one of the most entertaining documentaries ever made. I'd hate to see you try to sit through "Shoah" (or maybe I wouldn't; it would be good for some giggles).share
I saw part of this film on TV, and I just had to go buy the DVD. I find this "documentary" absolutely captivating. I'm not even really sure why it captivates me so much. I think it's the playful nature of it. Orson Welles is having fun while making this documentary, while still adressing some serious questions. It's not like a lot of other documentaries that take themselves to seriously. It's lighthearted and entertaining. If anything, it's the opposite of pretentious. I had never heard of Elmyr de Hory before, and didn't really know anything about Clifford Irving. While the format of "F for Fake" can be somewhat difficult to watch, I found Orson engaging enough that I never lost interest and was always paying attention. He's careful to point out throughout the entire legnth that he's just as much of a faker as anyone else featured. He doesn't presume to be an omniscient narrator, nor does he want to be. He doesn't want to be a know-it-all voice that is shoving stuff down you. He encourages you to question everything, from high art, to celebrities, to the film you're watching.
This is easily the most captivating documentary I've ever seen. Actually, I feel that I'm diminishing it by putting in the same category of other documentaries. It's something completely on its own, that stands aside from other film genres.
My god, all the "extras"! Tom Snyder interviewing Orson, etc. I liked the film, but watching some of the extras has been a nice way to get to know Orson (the person and the filmmaker) a little bit.share
All types indeed. This is a fantastic film that bends the very definition of what a documentary is. It's thrilling, overstuffed and totally bizarre, but I can't understand calling it 'dull.'share
this really is no more than a bunch of fakers attempting to out-fake each other. i consider that rather dull really and not my idea of a good movie. still, i suppose it takes all types...
Well, I just saw this movie on television...It gives me the same feeling in my brain as my Literary Theory Class. Thank god I could switch it every now and again when I was feeling my eyes droop due to over stimulation. I mean, I can get it it's campiness and how you have to watch this movie in the right mood or mindset or whatever, but I don't think I was in that mood. Then again, I've never felt any real connection to Welles as an actor, so maybe that's why I couldn't appreciate his having fun. If you're a Welles fan, I think this movie reads like a hugley introspective home video. If you're not, you're better off just reading a post-modern book or something about hoaxes. My sister and I were watching it and the part that we were most riveted by was Oja walking in these pretty kick ass 70's clothes. What the hell, it's summertime, I'm allowed to be superficial.
Actually, I found the sub-plot line (the main plot being Orson Welles in front of a camera) about the hoaxsters really fascinating and sometimes the constant switching from the interviews to Orson was a bit annoying. Those interviews were interesting in that they have the real-life people poking fun and explaining their skills and their immense cajones. I was really interested in what they had to say for themselves and their quirky lightness and then Orson comes in rambling. But this isn't the type of documentary where you learn so much as you question.
My favourite line in the movie? When Orson Welles is walking in the gallery and steps from behind a plastic orb blurring out much of the screen and he speaks over the voiceover saying "PRETENTIOUS" in the most pretentious voice, in the most pretentious fedora, with the most pretentious cape, and the most pretentious personality you could ever imagine. Loved that. It's like a second, not even noticeable if you watch the whole thing through. I just switched it on the channel right at that moment. Pretty damn hilarious. And then I changed the channel.
It doesn't have to be considered an amazingly edited movie, or a profoundly deep movie, but this little piece does discuss a very funny question that no one seems to be able to answer - the difference between "Art" in the high art sense and a classic "Con". If both require creativity and the ability to inspire someone else and not just the original creator, then what, really is the difference? That's why Welles discusses himself as both con artist and true artist... Shakespeare would do the same, with lines like "all the world's a stage", etc. It's nothing new, artists trying to discern why and how 'experts' and 'critics' and 'commentators' get their classification system. By turning the critical lens back on the 'experts', as he does, Welles is really asking us all - if we're so good at determining for ourselves what is and is not 'art', then why aren't we all creating more of it? And why don't we appreciate the true con as much as the true artist? Some people really do appreciate a good con, especially when no one is 'hurt'.
I think of the recent memoir that was proven to be partially fabricated - friends of mine had been recommending the book to me, but I'm not really ever bowled over by anyone's personal memoirs... I usually read memoir to read of the time and environment and to hear diverse worldviews, etc. So I hadn't run out and bought the thing. Next, they're losing their minds and angry that the memoir isn't true. And they had LOVED the book?! I kept asking them why they still didn't appreciate the book, since it had moved them so? They wouldn't bide with it, and had to extract it like a root from their minds, spitting it on the ground "That #@(*&^@#(*&%!!" Really bizarre behavior, and I think the behavior that Welles is filming about here.
But it is an amazingly edited, profoundly deep film.
There were plenty of advantages to living in Paris in the early 1970s, especially if one was a movie buff with time on one’s hands. The Parisian film world is relatively small, and simply being on the fringes of it afforded some exciting opportunities, even for a writer like myself who’d barely published. Leaving the Cinémathèque at the Palais de Chaillot one night, I was invited to be an extra in a Robert Bresson film that was being shot a few blocks away. And in early July 1972, while writing for Film Comment about Orson Welles’s first Hollywood project, Heart of Darkness, I learned Welles was in town and sent a letter to him at Antégor, the editing studio where he was working, asking a few simple questions—only to find myself getting a call from one of his assistants two days later: “Mr. Welles was wondering if you could have lunch with him today.”
I met him at La Méditerranée—the same seafood restaurant that would figure prominently in the film he was editing—and when I began by expressing my amazement that he’d invited me, he cordially explained that this was because he didn’t have time to answer my letter. The film he was working on was then called Hoax, and he said it had something to do with the art forger Elmyr de Hory and the recent scandal involving Clifford Irving and Howard Hughes. “A documentary?” “No, not a documentary—a new kind of film,” he replied, though he didn’t elaborate.
This sounds like a pompous boast, though, like most of what he told me that afternoon about other matters, it turned out to be accurate. He could have said “essay” or “essay film,” which is what many are inclined to call F for Fake nowadays. But on reflection, this label is almost as imprecise and as misleading as “documentary,” despite the elements of both essay and documentary (as well as fiction) employed in the mix. Welles’s subsequent Filming “Othello” (1978) clearly qualifies as an essay, and this is plainly why Phillip Lopate, in his extensive examination of that form (in Totally, Tenderly, Tragically: Essays and Criticism from a Lifelong Love Affair with the Movies), prefers it—citing in particular its sincerity, which the earlier film can’t claim to the same degree. But in qualifying as Welles’s most public film and his most private—hiding in plain sight most of its inexhaustible riches—this isn’t a movie that can be judged by the kinds of yardsticks we apply to most others.
When I wound up getting invited to an early private screening more than a year later, on October 15, 1973, the film was then called Fake. I was summoned to Club 13—a chic establishment run by Claude Lelouch, often used for industry screenings—by film historian and longtime Cinémathèque employee Lotte Eisner, whose response to the film was much less favorable than mine. When I ventured, “This doesn’t look much like an Orson Welles film,” she replied, “It isn’t even a film.” But neither of us had a scrap of contextual information beyond what Welles had said to me, and it wasn’t until almost a decade later that he noted to Bill Krohn, in an interview for Cahiers du cinéma, that he deliberately avoided any shots that might be regarded as “typically Wellesian.” The following year, the International Herald Tribune reported him as saying, “In F for Fake I said I was a charlatan and didn’t mean it...because I didn’t want to sound superior to Elmyr, so I emphasized that I was a magician and called it a charlatan, which isn’t the same thing. And so I was faking even then. Everything was a lie. There wasn’t anything that wasn’t.”
To complicate matters further, the film’s production company sent me a fiche technique a few days after the screening, saying that the film’s title was Question Mark, that it was co-directed by Orson Welles and François Reichenbach (presumably because of the outtakes of his documentary about art forgery that were used) and written by Olga Palinkas (the real name of Oja Kodar), and that its leading actors were Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving (but not Welles). Clearly a “new kind of film” creates problems of definition and description for everyone, not merely critics, and by the time the title mutated one last time into F for Fake (an appellation suggested by Kodar—who truthfully can also be credited with the story about her and Picasso, which Welles adapted), everyone was thoroughly confused. “For the time being,” I concluded in Film Comment at the time, “I am content to call it The New Orson Welles Film, co-directed by Irving and de Hory, written by Jorge Luis Borges, and produced by Howard Hughes.... As Welles remarks about Chartres, the most important thing is that it exists.”
It would be comforting to say my early appreciation of F for Fake included an adequate understanding of just how subversive it was (and is). But leaving aside the critique of the art world and its commodification via “experts”—which is far more radical in its implications than Citizen Kane’s critique of William Randolph Hearst—it has only been in recent years, with the rewind and stop-frame capacities of video, that the sheer effrontery of many of Welles’s more important tricks can be recognized, making this film more DVD-friendly than any of his others. It’s also taken some time for us to realize that his methodology in putting this film together gave him a kind of freedom with his materials that he never had before or since. For a filmmaker who often avowed that the art of cinema resided in editing, F for Fake must have represented his most extended effort. According to Dominique Villain, who interviewed the film’s chief editor for her 1991 book Le Montage au cinéma, the editing took Welles a solid year, working seven days a week—a routine suspended only for the length of time that it took Michel Legrand to compose the score—and requiring the use of three separate editing rooms.
The key to Welles’s fakery here, as it is throughout his work, is his audience’s imagination and the active collaboration it performs—most often unknowingly—with his own designs, the kind of unconscious or semiconscious complicity that magicians and actors both rely on. (“A magician is just an actor...playing the part of a magician.”) It’s what enables us to accept Welles as Kodar’s Hungarian grandfather and Kodar as Picasso in the final Orly sequence, when they’re both dressed in black and moving about in the fog. And the key to this key can be found both literally and figuratively in the first words Welles speaks in the film—initially heard over darkness that gradually fades in to the window of a train compartment in a Paris station: “For my next experiment, ladies and gentlemen, I would appreciate the loan of any small personal object from your pocket—a key, a box of matches, a coin….” This proves to be a literal key in the pocket of a little boy standing in for the rest of us. Welles promptly turns it into a coin, then back into a key inside the boy’s pocket, meanwhile offering us brief glimpses of and exchanges with Reichenbach’s film crew, then Oja Kodar as she opens the train window. “As for the key,” he concludes, “it was not symbolic of anything.”
One sees his droll point, but I beg to differ. By virtue of being personal and pocketed, then taken away and eventually returned to its owner, the key is precisely symbolic of the viewer’s creative investment and participation solicited in Welles’s “experiment” over the next eighty-odd minutes. And distinguishing between what’s public and private in these transactions, both for the viewer and for Welles, is much less easy than it sounds. A movie in which Welles can’t resist showing off the beauty and sexiness of his mistress at a time when he’s still married seems downright brazen, especially in contrast to the tact he shows in alluding to de Hory’s homosexuality, yet he can’t simply or invariably be accused of wearing his heart and libido on his sleeve. In some ways, the self-mocking braggadocio—such as ordering steak au poivre from the same waiter carrying off the remains of a gigantic lobster—becomes a kind of mask, while his deepest emotions and intentions are hidden away in his own pockets, just as firmly as our own private investments remain in ours. Those who decide that the exposés of various hoaxes (including those of de Hory, Irving, and Welles) are superficial and obvious may be overlooking the degree to which these very revelations are masking the perpetration of various others, some of which are neither superficial nor obvious.
For an immediate example of this process, consider the word clusters in the title sequence that we’re asked to read on the sides of film cans as the camera moves left from “a film by Orson Welles” to “WITH THE,” then up in turn to “COLLABORATION,” “OF CERTAIN,” and “EXPERT,” which sits alongside another can labeled “PRACTIONERS.” Because we’re so preoccupied with following the unorthodox direction of our reading imposed by the camera—proceeding from right to left and then from down to up—most of us are apt to read practioners, a word existing in no dictionary, as practitioners. And given how loaded, tainted, and double-sided the word expert is soon to become in this movie, it’s possible to conclude that the real collaborators and “practioners”—the spectators of Welles’s magic who collaborate with him by putting it into practice—are none other than ourselves. In other words, we know best and we know nothing.
Similarly, we should look very closely at what we’re being shown in the early “girl watching” sequence—perhaps the most intricately edited stretch in the film, especially in contrast to the more leisurely and conventionally edited late sequence devoted to Pablo Picasso’s ogling of Kodar. (Both sequences incidentally feature a tune that Legrand calls “Orson’s Theme,” though Welles’s placements of it suggest it might more fittingly be called “Oja’s Theme.”) If we freeze-frame in the right places toward the end of “girl watching,” we’ll discover that a couple of full-frontal long shots of “Oja Kodar” approaching us on a city street don’t actually show Kodar at all but another woman (her sister) of roughly the same size in the same dress. Given the whole sequence’s elaborate peekaboo tactics—a mosaic of almost perpetual fragmentation—it stands to reason that two very brief shots pretending to reveal what many previous angles have concealed can readily fool us by hiding in full view, just like Edgar Allen Poe’s “purloined letter.”
As Finnegans Wake was for Joyce, F for Fake was for Welles a playful repository of public history intertwined with private in-jokes as well as duplicitous meanings, an elaborate blend of sense and nonsense that carries us along regardless of what’s actually being said. For someone whose public and private identities became so separate that they wound up operating routinely in separate households and sometimes on separate continents, exposure and concealment sometimes figured as reverse sides of the same coin, and Welles’s desire to hide inside his own text here becomes a special kind of narcissism. When Welles made his never-released nine-minute F for Fake trailer three years later, he even avoided having his name spoken or seen (“Modesty forbids”)—except for when Gary Graver, his cinematographer and partial stand-in as host, prompts him with, “Ten seconds more, Orson.”
For a filmmaker who studiously avoided repeating himself and sought always to remain a few steps ahead of his audience’s expectations, thereby rejecting any obvious ways of commodifying his status as an auteur, Welles arguably found a way in F for Fake to contextualize large portions of his career while undermining many cherished beliefs about authorship and the means by which “experts,” “God’s own gift to the fakers,” validate such notions.
It has often been asserted that this film was his indirect response to Pauline Kael’s “Raising Kane” and its (subsequently discredited) suggestion that practically all of Citizen Kane’s screenplay was written by Herman J. Mankiewicz. It’s worth adding, however, that his most direct and immediate response to Kael’s screed was his masterful semiforgery of “The Kane Mutiny,” a polemical article that deceptively ran in Esquire under Peter Bogdanovich’s byline, included many quotations from Welles, and cogently responded to Kael’s essay on a point-by-point basis—a remarkable display of Welles’s gifts as a writer that paradoxically had to conceal this fact. In her writing on Welles, University of Michigan professor Catherine L. Benamou has noted the echoes of the fire consuming the Rosebud sled in the burning of a couple of forged canvases, and one could also cite the way that various “conversations” manufactured through editing reproduce aspects of the community chatter about the Ambersons in The Magnificent Ambersons, or the way a Gypsy-like fiddle, Welles’s Slavic intonations, and all the frenetic plane-hopping call to mind Mr. Arkadin. There’s even a cuckoo clock thrown in at one point that summons up both Arkadin and The Third Man. For all his regrets, this self-referentiality is one of the many elements that make F for Fake the most celebratory of Welles’s films. As he puts it while distant views of Chartres nearly replicate our first views of Kane’s Xanadu: “Our songs will all be silenced—but what of it? Go on singing.”
It's not what a film is about, it's how it is about it.
What an interesting account of the film. Thanks for filling in some of the background.
One observation, Welles had not just polished off a lobster when he asks for his steak au poivre. We see the lobster being served it's true, but the plate in front of him is full of what looks to be mussel shells.
It's a remarkable film. Bracing, funny and surprising.
Why couldn't he have a career in America? Think of what he could have achieved. Much as one admires Citizen Kane, his next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, is his best - in my opinion. Even though it was butchered by hacks from the studio who only wanted to control him.
You're quite welcome.
ce n est pas une image juste, ce st juste une image