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