So for Postmodern Literature last week, our professor showed us a bit of one of the later films of Orson Welles, one of the very scant few of that time ever managed to see the light of day, "F for Fake" also known as, for whatever reason, "About Fakes" Dunno why, haven't bothered to look it up. Anyway, the tantalizing twenty minutes the professor showed us had me hooked, I needed to see the rest. I also had Immigration statistics reading I needed to do for another class. Guess which won out?
So, F for Fake, made in 1973, is broadly, about forgery, fakes and lies. Specifically, it is about Elmyr de Hory, professional art forger and wearer of monocles, Clifford Irving, a dude who chronicled the story of Elmyr and eventually was caught in his own forgery of Howard Hughes's autobiography, and Orson Welles himself. Also it's about Welles's girlfriend of the time (and til his death), the insanely hot Oja Kodar.
...Although, to be fair, just imagine what his bedroom voice would've sounded like:
Touche, Oja Kodar, touche.
So yeah, F For Fake could be described as a postmodern film because it is one of those films that constantly reminds you it's a film, with shots of Welles narrating from the editing room, a constant digression of topic, and also, the hallmark of postmodernism, it is really really fucking hard to follow. At least, according to a twenty year old literature student with a severe lack of a background in the weird-ass world of seventies film outside of the James Bond series so take from that what you will.
Anyway, so why was I so hooked on a complicated postmodern seventies film about art forgery by Orson Welles, who, outside of The Third Man, I don't even really like all that much?
Because of Orson Welles, actually. He's onscreen for much of the movie, and he just gives off this incredibly charming air, like you can tell he's having ball with this movie, and it's just infectious. He's doing magic tricks, chuckling at the adorableness of Elmyr and his monocle and promising you nothing but the truth one minute and declaring the next that he is lying his head off. At the end, he reveals the trick he's played on the audience (there is a trick but it's not what you think) but you don't feel cheated or taken advantage of, if anything you laugh along good-naturedly with Welles. Also his narration is just wonderful. When he tells you a story he heard from a Hungarian man he switches back forth in a Hungarian accent. He goes from loud and boisterous when discussing Clifford Irving's ballsy hoax where he claimed to have gotten the manuscript to Howard Hughes's autobiography, to an almost reverent whisper as he stares up at the hotel where Hughes had sequestered himself at the time, murmuring of the mysteries behind the man.
Also he has pretty much the best deadpan face ever, even when saying the most absurd crap ever uttered.
So I realize I haven't actually described the movie itself all that much. But that's kind of how it is, it meanders, digresses, jumps around constantly tests your patience with it. But if you stick out through the weird cuts, the rambling stories told through thick accents by people you've never heard of, you'll find yourself in the middle of a fun, confusing ride through one of Orson Welle's last great works, and frauds.
So, F for Fake gets four catapults out five, which is equally to about maybe two-thirds of an Orson (because I am not sophisticated enough to make it through this review without cracking an Orson Welles fat joke) 'Night!
"Our works in stone, in paint, in print, are spared, some of them, for a few decades or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in war, or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash - the triumphs, the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life: we're going to die. "Be of good heart," cry the dead artists out of the living past. "Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing." Maybe a man's name doesn't matter all that much" -Orson Welles