Vérités et mensonges
September 5, 2010 10:32 PM   Subscribe

F for Fake (French: Vérités et mensonges) is the last major film completed by Orson Welles, who directed, co-wrote, and starred in the film. Initially released in 1974, it focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger; de Hory's story serves as the backdrop for a fast-paced, meandering investigation of the natures of authorship and authenticity, as well as the basis of the value of art. Loosely a documentary, the film operates in several different genres and has been described as a kind of film essay. posted by KokuRyu (26 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I love F For Fake (recommended it on AskMe yesterday).

For those interested, The Hoax is a film about the Irving/Hughes debacle.
posted by dobbs at 10:53 PM on September 5, 2010

Thanks for this. I'm a huge Orson Welles fan but I've never seen the Bogdanovich retrospective.
(now if only they would release Chimes at Midnight in the US!)
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:59 PM on September 5, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson on the jailing of Elmyr Hory.
posted by adamvasco at 11:51 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

That movie is loosely derived from the book Fake! by Clifford Irving. I read the book when I was a young sophomore in art school. The book seems like a hoax itself, and Irving cultivated that impression.

One of my favorite stories in Fake! is how de Hory was always looking for unique artworks to forge, particularly drawings. They would be difficult to compare to the artist's other work if they were a unique example. One day he learned that Modigliani had never done a self portrait, so he decided he would draw one. It would be unique so there were no other self-portraits to compare it to, and Modigliani's style was simple and easy to forge. It would be worth a lot of money, collectors would bid against each other to have Modigliani's self portrait.

He claimed that his forgery was widely accepted and even published in art history books. So I decided to check the art library. There was only one Modigliani self-portrait, executed with simple black lines, just as de Hory described. I decided to put a small footnote, in light pencil, in the bottom margin of the book, I even carefully used the Chicago Style Book format that was in use then, I think it said something like "Alleged forgery, 'Fake!' Clifford Irving, McGraw-Hill, 1969."

The reference librarian found my note. She was not amused. I was summoned to her office, she banned me from the art library for life.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:02 AM on September 6, 2010 [14 favorites]

For the next hour, everything I tell you will be absolutely true.
posted by carsonb at 2:14 AM on September 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I first saw F is for Fake in Phoenix at an artist group house while I was sidelined from hitchhiking, kind of living on the edge at the time. Fascinating film. I was disappointed it took so long for me to stumble on it. This film is a perfect example of Welles' strengths as a filmmaker as well as his weaknesses - it's also a good film to show to an aspiring artist. Welles seemed to have a troubled relationship with the industry, which nearly always sold him short of his true abilities, and he didn't get enough opportunities to make films of his own. Even though he made one of the most influential films of all time as his first major work, sometimes considered the greatest film of all time, he still had to struggle for artistic control his whole life. Incidentally, Citizen Kane was the third proposal by Welles, RKO having rejected the first two. He was a flawed man, to be sure, but what wasn't flawed was very powerful, an incredible presence and intellect, many varied talents and an unrelenting drive to control his creative works or not release them at all. I'm happy for Welles that his last film was such an interesting one and not something he was talked into doing by a big studio, but he never had any patience for that.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:22 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Whoops, F for Fake. It's late ...
posted by krinklyfig at 2:22 AM on September 6, 2010

Transformers was his last film.
posted by the cuban at 2:31 AM on September 6, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson on the jailing of Elmyr Hory.

Fantastic. I'm a fan of R.A.W. and never read this before. How appropriate. Of course he only manages to add more twists and turns to the story, to inject doubt, challenging Welles' statement that everything in the film is fake.

At the end of Welles’s F For Fake, after we have suffered prolonged doubt about how many Picassos should get reclassified as Elmyrs, one character cries passionately “I must believe, at least, that art is real!” — a noble thought with which I might finish this chapter…
posted by krinklyfig at 2:39 AM on September 6, 2010

Transformers was his last film.

I was referring to his work as a director and often writer, creator of his own movies. His work as an actor was great, but he always wanted to see his own visions through more than playing roles other people created.

Yes, he was in Transformers in an acting role. Technically speaking, however, his final acting role is in Someone to Love (I had to look that up). His last work as a director was Filming Othello, which is a documentary about his production of Othello back in the 1950s. F for Fake is considered to be his last major work. It is the last film he released as his own, although he had many unfinished projects to the end.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:50 AM on September 6, 2010

Great post. A real fave of mine! If you are a Welles fan it is also worth sniffing around the torrent world for an .avi of Chimes at Midnight. Probably the only way ever to see it given rights issue dubiousness and greed, sadly. Far, far less technically interesting but still a must.
posted by The Salaryman at 4:38 AM on September 6, 2010

"Someone To Love", while not a great film by any means, is pretty enjoyable, and the final 10 minutes or so is absolutely essential for any Welles fanatics.
posted by the bricabrac man at 5:30 AM on September 6, 2010

In a way, F For Fake is itself a fake, as the Hory section is essentially found footage - it was shot for a completely unrelated-to-Welles BBC documentary. That's not to diminish Welles' achievement, as I find what he does with the footage to be quite exhilarating. It seems that he did, to - in the marvellous 1982 Arena interview (available from all good torrent sites, and I'd recommend it highly - if nothing else it's a masterclass in lovingly tending a cigar) Welles says that he thought he'd discovered a whole new way of making films, and in a way he had.
posted by Grangousier at 5:38 AM on September 6, 2010

This is indeed one of the best movies of all time, in my opinion.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:58 AM on September 6, 2010

This is my favourite Orson Welles film, and I think one of the best movies of all time. Thanks
posted by PinkMoose at 6:01 AM on September 6, 2010

Bogdanovitch claims there are no other movies like it, but I would say there are a couple other Narrated Essay Documentaries like this. Certainly on TV there are shows that are a bit like this (No Reservations is one, on a small scale), but just sticking to movies, Herzog certainly has made a few, Spaulding Gray's films are similar though not as extensive, and maybe something like Tarnation would count too? Can we think of any others in the tradition?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:09 AM on September 6, 2010

I loved Welles' cameo introduction to 'Start The Revolution Without Me':

"This is a motion Picture...(pause)...it's in color."
posted by ovvl at 7:16 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

(now if only they would release Chimes at Midnight in the US!)

At least it's still possible to see it, by import DVD or "less savory" means. I was so excited about the flurry of news about The Other Side of the Wind finally getting a release a few years ago, but that appears to have come to nothing.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:26 AM on September 6, 2010

I think there must be something wrong with me, because I didn't really like this film when I watched it. It felt like a mush of unrelated bits topped with a final gotcha.
posted by subbes at 7:39 AM on September 6, 2010

I think there must be something wrong with me, because I didn't really like this film when I watched it. It felt like a mush of unrelated bits topped with a final gotcha.

I find the overall narrative less exciting than the whole-hearted exploration of craft, which is exhilarating to watch, at least for anyone who fancies themselves to be a similarly minded explorer.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:59 AM on September 6, 2010

Interesting. I've known "of" F is for Fake, but have never seen it, nor the Bagdonavich piece, but am moved to follow up now. Thanks for posting!
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 8:57 AM on September 6, 2010

If you ever teach a class in film editing F FOR FAKE should be film one, (maybe the only film you need?).

+ if you fall in love with the magnificent Oja Kodar after watching FAKE I recommend the recent documentary PRODIGAL SONS, though I will not reveal why - and if you do see it I implore you to avoid any knowledge of the film in advance.
posted by jettloe at 9:51 AM on September 6, 2010

"F for Fake" is magnificent, and I love the fact that its sleight of hand in technique is even better than the surface narrative. (I mean -- I love the fact that there are things that I've missed in its technique that would warrant many re-viewings.) Not all Welles' films are magnificent, but many of them are, and a good number of them are unparalleled masterpieces. One thing I love about "The Magnificent Ambersons" is that it is still a masterpiece even after RKO and Robert Wise cut almost half of it and left it on the editing floor.
posted by blucevalo at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2010

F is for fun! F is for fake believe!
posted by freebird at 2:21 PM on September 6, 2010

I would recommend Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery, a 52-minute documentary from 1997 about art forger Elmyr de Hory. It is an extra on the Criterion DVD of F Is For Fake. It fills in a lot of the gaps the film [purposely] leaves out.
posted by Rashomon at 7:58 PM on September 7, 2010

Please don't watch an entire movie like this on Youtube, ferchrissakes. Get the Criterion DVD release, which is available via Netflix.
posted by intermod at 8:01 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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