Tuesday, July 31, 2012

F for Fake

V niin kuin väärennös / F för förfalskning. FR/IR/DE © 1973 SACI / Les Films de l'Astrophore / Janus Film und Fernsehen. P: François Reichenbach. D+SC: Orson Welles. DP: Gary Graver, Christian Odasso. M: Michel Legrand. ED: Marie-Sophie Dubus, Dominique Engerer.
    Featuring: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Lawrence Harvey, Howard Hughes, Nina van Pallandt, Joseph Cotten, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Richard Wilson, Paul Stewart, François Reichenbach, Gary Graver. Loc: Rome, Ibiza, Paris, Los Angeles, Chartres, Orvilliers, Houdan.
    Helsinki premiere: 18.2.1976 Diana, released by ABC-Kinot – VET 84518 – K12 – 2445 m / 88 min.
    A vintage ABC-Kinot print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Aito Mäkinen / Maya Vanni viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (I Love You, I Film You), 31 July 2012.

Revisited the last major feature film directed by Orson Welles. F for Fake is a high point in his satirical essay format that he mastered already in the 1950s (A Portrait of Gina), ahead of his time. The rapid, irreverent montage of the movie, original in its time, has since the 1980s become a mainstream device in television.

The theme of the film - fakes, fraud, illusions - is much more topical today than when the film was made. The crooked play of Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving is a small time version of the giant fraud well-known in today's financial scene.

This is a film full of paradoxes. Like all great forgers, Elmyr de Hory never makes a copy of a painting but creates new paintings copying precisely the style of a famous artist in a certain period. Elmyr also claims that he has never forged a signature. "I have never broken a law". "The fakes are as good as the real ones". We see Elmyr creating fake paintings by Matisse etc. and then throwing them into the fire. In some points of his career his zeal became a curse: he created dozens of Modiglianis while Modigliani was an artist famous for the limited number of his works.

In one of the funniest scenes of the movie Elmyr fakes a portrait of Michelangelo and signs it as Orson Welles. In another scene Welles draws a picture of Howard Hughes and signs it as Elmyr de Hory.

This satirical study casts an irreverent light into the phenomena of art markets, art experts, and the museum circuit.

The Picasso phenomenon is among the themes. Never before had there been artist that in one movement of the hand that took maybe only ten seconds created a line that turned into gold. According to Elmyr Picasso himself was not always able to distinguish between an authentic Picasso and a fake ("I can paint false Picassos as well as anybody" Picasso reportedly said).

The film digresses into Clifford Irving's fake autobiography of Howard Hughes, and Orson Welles's personal connection with the Howard Hughes story. An alternative project of his to Citizen Kane was a film inspired by the life of Howard Hughes, and uncannily, Citizen Kane came to predict aspects of the later phase of Howard Hughes (such as his mysterious isolation).

The film is a provocation to profound skepticism and healthy distrust in everything, including itself. Orson Welles later commented that "everything in that film was fake". But even that is not true. The film ridicules the cult of the signature and the genius but it celebrates true art that may be completely anonymous, like the cathedral of Chartres. It also celebrates the naked truth of the human form as incorporated in the figure of Oja Kodar.

Visual quality: compilation quality, from 16 mm, stock footage, dupes, and original 35 mm footage. The vintage print is complete and the colour is ok for a print that is over 35 years old.

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