F for Fake

Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he will be.
- Jorge Luis Borges, Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote

Unexpectedly appropriate that I watched this in between parts of Feuillade's Fantomas since both are concerned with the viewer's ability to critique the moving images placed before them. Where they differ is that Feuillade trains the audience to scrutinize his compositions and challenge his best efforts to exert control over the senses, whereas Welles revels in seducing them with the most delicious artifice he can concoct. Even the truth (as he claims it is) is itself delivered with a bravado almost too good to be true, but it is. Therefore the film serves the dual purpose of revealing image making as an act of fraud and celebrating that very quality since, as we should all know, truth is found in artifice. This quality is even more potent now that The Other Side of the Wind has been released and Welles’ distaste for the realist art house is on the mind. No, Welles is of a different vein than Antonioni. He is a charlatan and a magician, a toy maker and a showman, better than Hitchcock ever was because he respected the audience enough to let them in on the joke. The knowledge that much of F for Fake did not originate in Welles’ mind only makes the trick that much sweeter. What is auteurism in the face of the endless ebb and flow of history? His gleeful arrogance masks the awareness that his extravagant legacy is but a brief dot, one whose importance is not yet proven. Could Kane ever reach the stature of the Chartres Cathedral? Can any film? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Or perhaps cinema will be the art to outlive all others.

A revelation and a challenge.

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing. Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.

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