June 30, 2005


M for Fake — Welles, Moore and Other Tricksters (Edward Driscoll, 06.30.2005, New Partisan)

F For Fake, released in 1974, was Orson Welles’ last film to play in theaters during his lifetime. It was nominally a documentary on art forger Elmyr de Hory and Howard Hughes autobiography hoaxer Clifford Irving. The documentary footage of both de Hory and Irving was actually shot by others and purchased by Welles, who, in a masterwork of editing and narration, used the footage to launch into a long raconteur-like reflection on trickery and deception.

The movie has just been released onto DVD as part of the Criterion Collection, which has been assembling archival-quality versions of films both offbeat and important since the mid-1980s.

While Welles intended F For Fake to be a warning against the growing popularity of hucksters, I doubt that even he could have foreseen what a surprisingly bright future they would soon have. Since the film’s initial theatrical run in the mid-‘70s, the public has shown an increasing appetite for Hollywood fakers and charlatans who have launched careers with a serious bit of reality manipulation and then parlayed those early efforts into the big leagues of power and stardom.

In a way, that’s what Welles himself did. His 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast was an attempt to create an authentically realistic news radio broadcast to build verisimilitude before he set the Martians loose on New Jersey. The next day, his mouth seemingly melting butter, Welles “apologized” for his broadcast and the ensuing panic, in what must surely have been his best bit of acting ever. (There’s a clip of Welles’ apology on the DVD version of Citizen Kane.)

Welles’ stunt led directly to an offer to direct movies from RKO studios, the first of which was Citizen Kane. And it’s no coincidence that in Kane’s “News on the March” montage, Welles’ first line of dialogue was an emphatic “Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio!”

When he mentioned that the essay tied together Welles and Michael Moore I assumed he was going to write about how much the latter has come to resemble Hank Quinlan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2005 11:26 AM

'F is for Fake' is a great movie.

Posted by: carter at June 30, 2005 1:57 PM

"...a mess." Yes, yes truly.

Posted by: Luciferous at June 30, 2005 3:28 PM

Tie together Welles and Moore? Bring a WHOLE lotta rope.

Posted by: Casey Abell at June 30, 2005 11:34 PM