f is for fake

Billed as the last film completed by orsen welles, f is for fake is a documentary [verging on mockumentary] structured around the notion of authenticity. The premise of the film revolves around a famous art forger named elmyr de hory and his supposed biographer clifford irving, who like his subject, also emerges as a hoaxster. That's the premise anyway. The film ultimately is about many things including but not limited to- authorship, reality, truth, fiction, discourse, and of course welles' obsessive desire to have the audience in turn also succumb to the beautiful oja kodar- the freudian apparatus of desire here.


While initially i found the film to be fairly incoherent and disjointed, after thinking upon it some, i feel it's actually a pretty brilliant film. To begin with, welles seeks to debunk the idea of the “expert.” i find this especially relevant from a contemporary perspective where sound bites and the “blogosphere” have given anyone with an internet connection and an opinion a sort of validity that that did not exist in 1975. the concept of academic and journalisitc rigor while not entirely dead, has certainly been supplanted by the increasingly speedy cycle of news and information. And even as he carefully constructs his argument on film, the manner in which he speeds up, slows down, jump cuts, moves back and forth and generally mixes up a series of narratives, posturing first as the storyteller then later as a participant, welles relies on a narrative methodology and energy that clearly nods towards a style that has since become synonymous with reality tv.


What i found especially interesting is that welles' argument- that there is no TRUTH in narrativity is in fact the basis of all documentary theory. That the very nature of pointing a camera and framing a subject is inherently subjective and therefore not truthful, is not a new idea. But he seems to want to extend the concept to narrativity in general and thus implicate the storyteller and film at large as bunch of fakers. In some ways this is a redundant argument. Does it matter? But perhaps it does in the larger sense where artists have a social responsibility to navigate the periphery of society and and function as oracles. But if all art is overdetermined by fakers and forgers then that seems to create an infinite loop of mistrust for audiences and artists alike.


check it out and see for yourself...


stills from orsen welles' f is for fake, 1975



when i was in film school, one early experimental animator who's films were repeatedly referenced was len lye. as a sort of godfather of direct film, he painted and scratched onto film which was then projected, resulting in a unique interplay of rythm, color and movement. a colour box and free radicals in particular continue to be relevant today in their incredibly avant garde aesthetic.

i only realized len lye was kiwi and that he had a very prolific career designing all kinds of interactive art installations after i moved to wellington and happened to catch a lecture about him at the new zealand film archive. his kinetic sculptures can actually be found all over new zealand and are quite remarkable in the way they harness energy and motion. in this way, they appear as natural extensions of his work in film and animation. the above photo is his wind wand sculpture in new plymouth, which inicidentlaly is a great little town to spend a short holiday.

light, shadow


a lot has been said and written about the godfather films. but i can see why these are films that audiences keep returning to. if i ever happen to catch them playing somewhere i always get sucked right in.

recently while looking at some of rembrandt's paintings i began to think that i had in the back of my mind a cinematic reference that somehow matched the color and light quality that was unique to the renaissance painter. i realized that gordon willis' cinematography for the godfather films was it. they not only echo the classic red, brown and black palette rembrandt was known for, but the use of light and shadow is particularly striking. like rembrandt, willis seems to start with dark and add light, carving out shapes and revealing them bit by bit. the hooded eyes are also similar, sugesting these characters have something to hide, and so they seem to shrink back into the shadows or halfway emerge from them.


aristotle, the bearded man, and the syndicate by rembrandt van rijn

stills from the godfather, directed by frances ford coppola, 1972

creepy renaissance paintings


i came across these two portraits while thumbing through several books on renaissance paintings. i was struck at first by the unusual countenance of both subjects. but while the grotesque nature of the paintings initially drew me in, i was further intrigued by the level of detail and artistry involved in each work. renaissance portraiture of course being a high mark in history for the technique and skill devoted to depicting above all else, beauty, i was a bit confused.

as it turns out leonardo da vinci was very interested in "grotesque heads" and had a collection of drawings devoted to such subjects. the painters of these portraits were working in that tradition. and i find it fascinating that there are quite a many of these types of paintings from the period which challenge notions of grace and beauty. the woman in the second painting titled "an old woman," may have been one duchess of carinthia who was said to have regarded herself a figure of fun and thus dressed purposefully in what even in the sixteenth century would have been considered outlandish. incidentally she was john tenniel's original inspiration for the duchess in his alice in wonderland illustrations.


domenico ghirlandaio, "an old man and his grandson," about 1490

quentin massys, "an old woman," about 1513

images from renaissance faces: van eyck to titian