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Thursday, May 12, 2016

F FOR FAKE (1973)

No one has quite figured out what this late Orson Welles project is . . . let alone if it’s any good. At heart, an inventive deconstruction of François Reichenbach’s documentary about famed art forger Elmyr de Hory, it doubles back on itself in two ways (triples back?). First, using interviews with Hory biographer Clifford Irving (himself only recently exposed as a literary forger with a phony ‘as-told-to’ Howard Hughes bio) and second, with bemused comments on magic & veracity from dear Orson, himself, that most misleading of obedient servants. All tricked up with a sophisticated/obfuscating editing technique that must have seemed discombobulated at the time, but is no longer particularly difficult to decipher. Welles, once again 40 years ahead of his time. (Unfortunately, Welles lets the fun run out, tacking on an extra 20 minutes with a needless digression into something or other about Picasso. (To get it up to feature-length for a sale?) So, to get back to our initial question, what exactly is this? Often called a documentary; it’s not. Or an essay film. Again, no. What it is, of all things, is a palimpsest. A what? A palimpsest. Sort of a reused, or repurposed, old manuscript that’s been turned into something else from what it was.* And whatever it is, it’s quite entertaining . . . two-thirds of the way. (Note the lie on our poster!)

DOUBLE-BILL/READ ALL ABOUT IT/SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Jean-Jacques Annaud’s so-so version of Umberto Eco’s THE NAME OF THE ROSE actually calls itself a palimpsest. (It’s not.) On the other hand, Gore Vidal gets away with calling his elegantly modest memoir PALIMPSEST. Which leads us to Vidal’s superb essay collection, UNITED STATES, and its sweetly touching, often hilarious remembrance of his long friendship with Welles.

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