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Critics reviews
F for Fake
Orson Welles France, 1973
Welles, who revamped cinematic narrative with “Citizen Kane,” took another three decades to revolutionize the documentary form with this 1973 movie—but he did so with such wily exuberance and breezy philosophical depth that the later achievement may prove even more enduring. . . . With meditations on Chartres Cathedral and Pi¬casso, artistic drive and carnal passion, he turns matters of truth and fiction into a fun house of infinitely reflecting, self-magnifying, and self-concealing mirrors.
January 26, 2018
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Maybe it’s ironic that Welles’ greatest work may have been one of his boldest, most experimental films: the aforementioned F for Fake (March 1-2), a botched documentary about an art forger that he turned into a brisk, playful meditation on magic, duplicity and the enduring power of great art. If Kane ends on the question mark of how to assess one man’s life, Fake ends on the question mark of how to assess the greatness of any artistic achievement.
February 19, 2015
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The pleasure of cinema for Wells is not a preposterous ‘suspension of disbelief,’ but rather a sweetly sinister pleasure at seeing ourselves duped. Wells the rotund, paternalistic showman (this image like all images a myth, one which he feeds tongue in cheek in an auto-derisory reference to his legendary obesity by ordering on-camera a colossal lobster at his favorite Parisian seafood restaurant) reminds us that the cineaste is nothing more than a trickster, and his films but sleights of hand.
January 19, 2015
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The nature of art and authorship also fuels his last completed film, “F for Fake” (1974), a sparkling cinematic essay ahead of its time.
December 29, 2014
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If Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Touch of Evil, The Trial and Chimes at Midnight are Orson Welles’ hearty and substantial cinematic plats principaux, then F for Fake is his devilish little after dinner digestif whose flavours are no less intense, complex and robust.
August 23, 2012
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The breathtaking editing design, which builds poetic rhymes and ironies out of the various components, feels at least two decades ahead of its time; the implications created by the juxtapositions (often made between reality and illusion) are consistently profound.
April 01, 2011
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Simultaneously slapdash and Borgesian, Orson Welles’s late-career nonfiction board game of a movie may be, by ordinary standards, the most off-putting, coy, and self-satisfied object the man ever created. (It first saw festival showings in 1974.) But it’s also a film that creates its own scale of experience, a sleight-of-hand exercise that asks unanswerable questions of itself even as it presents perfectly obvious mysteries before us.
April 26, 2005
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F for Fake is as profound a rumination on spectator involvement in the fabrication of a reality, the great trick of the cinema, as it is on the fakers themselves. The viewer is the willing rube in an elaborate con game and yet it is, at its best, a well intentioned deception from which both the audience and the creator take something away with them.
February 18, 2005
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Leaving aside the critique of the art world and its commodification via “experts” — which is far more radical in its implications than Citizen Kane’s critique of William Randolph Hearst — it has only been in recent years, with the rewind and stop-frame capacities of video, that the sheer effrontery of many of Welles’s more important tricks can be recognized, making this film more DVD-friendly than any of his others.
January 01, 2005
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Maybe the F also stands for the finger given to Pauline Kael (“I’m a charlatan,” Welles declares early on, a note of embittered challenge in his voice). Still, F for Fake is chiefly a sly, spry comedy, a playful minuet of secrets and lies but, as you’ll see, no broken promises.
February 10, 2004
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Along with its vulgar idea… the actors seem to be pushing the most tiresome hedonism; and beneath some razzle-dazzle editing and insert shots of an editor’s paraphernalia, there is Reichenbach’s societ-reporter’s sensibility: celebrities bragging throujgh some flimsy anecdote, walking toward and away from the tipsy, hand-held camera.
November 01, 1975