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France / Iran / Germany, 1973 (MIFF 1996, Retrospecta)

Director: Orson Welles

As the documentary Orson Welles: One Man Band shows, this great director carried an editing table with him wherever he travelled, This tool of his trade is displayed by Welles in F For Fake with the same childlike zest that Dziga Vertov conveyed in Man with a Movie Camera. F for Fake is not merely a dazzlingly edited film, creating vectors of speed, energy and invention that put most films to shame. It is about editing -about articulation, combination, juxtaposition of image and sound fragments-and thus, like every Welles film, about conjuring and magic.

In cinema history, F for Fake stands like a lighthouse between the grand old era of the 'montage film' and the modern practice of the 'essay film'. Welles has rigorously 'worked' his : material into the form of a personal reflection. Art, fakery and authorship are the loose topics ; of this dancing essay, which was triggered by a fortuitous conjunction of events. The celebrated documentary film maker Francois Reichenbach had shot footage of the art forger Elmyr de Hory, including comments from his biographer. Clifford Irving; no one but Irving knew at the time that he had just perpetrated his own. superb hoax, an 'autobiography' by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.

This material is merely Welles's launch-pad. He ranges far and wide through the philosophy and politics of fakery, from personal coups (including, of course, the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast of 1938) to the paradox of an artist's 'signature' (culminating in a beautiful segment devoted to the Chartres Catherdral). Meanwhile, Welles is busy planting his own red herrings and hoaxes, preying mercilessly on our gullibility. F for Fake is a rare treat (AM)

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