F for Fake ★★★★★

Ah, so the daunting review must begin.

In his review of Jacques Rivette’s Duelle & Noroit, Jonathan Rosenbaum pointed out how “Rivette once remarked that Griffith's Intolerance has more to say about the year in which it was made, 1916, than about any of the historical periods it covers.” Pedro Costa similarly addressed this curiosity inherent in the very act of filmmaking at a seminar in Japan: “The first reason to make a film is for the pleasure of making it, the pleasure of the work. […] A film is always a documentary of its own filming, of its own making [so] we must never wonder if the work we’re doing is documentary or fiction, that has no interest as a problem.”

Orson Welles’s F for Fake is not only an heir to that spirit & tradition of great films, but it imbues Costa’s proposition into its very bones. What initially started out as an editing project for Welles on the art forger Elmyr de Hory grew into an extensive meditation on fakery & authenticity both in art & in life. It is misleading to label this as either a documentary or an essay film, for it expands not only our definitions of these genres of filmmaking, but also what constitutes a film in & of itself.

These last three paragraphs have been sitting in my Notes app for several months now. Since I first saw F for Fake on March 27, 2019, I’ve rewatched the film twice, with greater awe each viewing. Suffice it to say that my efforts to write a full appreciation have been constantly stymied by the sheer inability to express, much less remember, the myriad points of greatness — the playful upending of filmic conventions, for example, or the intermingling of biography, autobiography, and fiction, or the Chartres monologue, even Orson Welles’s impeccable diction. Perhaps it goes without saying that I’ve failed my task as a film critic, and merely succeeded in complaining about how I’ve failed. But as a filmmaker perhaps I have no other recourse in expressing full appreciation than to embed it, both overtly & subtly, into all future works.

And thus, truly, begins the daunting review.

(In the meantime I encourage all readers to check out Rosenbaum’s piece on F for Fake, though far from exhaustive, here.)