For Reel

F for Fake (1973)
April 10, 2016, 2:52 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Orson Welles
4 Stars
F for FakeWith F for Fake, Orson Welles steps in front of the camera and exchanges the title of director for master of ceremonies. Aside from his frequent direct address to the camera, the film also finds Welles in the editing room, at one point apologizing for the film itself before splicing together new footage. By itself, F for Fake is a hugely intoxicating essay about illusions and the ever-shifting definition of truth, but Welles’ self-reflexivity makes the viewer equally nostalgic. Welles retraces much of his career, from the famed War of the Worlds broadcast to his work on Citizen Kane. As the man looks back, so too does the audience reflect on these projects as the films of a man who, above all, considers himself to be an illusionist. What are the formal innovations of Citizen Kane if not the equivalent of sleight-of-hand—simple tricks that plays off of an audience’s expectations regarding space and the completeness of an image? The self-aware formalism of F for Fake suggests that Welles is a man who hasn’t only devoted his life to performance, but to fakery itself. In the twilight of his career, this sentiment gives the film a melancholic touch, becoming an autobiographical confession as much as it is an essay on truth.

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