F for Fake (1973)

f for fake poster 1972 movie orson welles
8.0 Overall Score

Interesting themes and ideas

Not a fan of quick-edited free-flowing form of the documentary-story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  F for Fake

Studio:  Specialty Films

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  September 1973 (San Sebastian Film Festival)/December 14, 1973 (Spain)

MPAA Rating:  PG


It is all an illusion

What is real and what is not real.  Elmyr de Hory creates masterpieces…of masterpieces and passes them off as the real work.  With a biography by notorious fake Howard Hughes biography pen writer Clifford Irving, de Hory lives in Spain fearing arrest…or is it all an illusion cooked up by the man behind the hoax of The War of the Worlds radio invasion broadcast Orson Welles?

Directed by Orson Welles (with footage from François Reichenbach, Gary Graver, and Oja Kodar), F for Fake (or the French title of Vérités et mensonges or Truths and Lies) is a documentary also labeled as a “film essay”.  The movie was released to harsh criticism but over the years has become a cult classic with Orson Welles’ popularity.  The movie was released with a special nine minute short film trailer which was also edited by Welles and has been collected with the film on a remastered Criterion edition (Criterion #288).


I’ve compiled this footage…well sort of

I have always loved that Criterion has brought movies to a spotlight that many would probably have never seen and F for Fake is one of those films.  Though Orson Welles makes great movies, everything on the surface of F for Fake is something that I wouldn’t like.  I am glad to have seen it, but I can’t say that it is my favorite film or often what it is about.

The movie plays with the viewers by constantly putting up questions about reality and fiction.  The idea that a painter (for example) paints something and then says it is someone else’s work raises questions examined in the movie.  First, the painter has created something out of nothing which many would label art…de Hory doesn’t trace these images; he creates them, but they just happen to look like others work.  Does that mean they are any less artistic than the original artist?  Secondly, if others verify that the art is “art” how does it become “not art” when it is revealed to be a forgery?


If it is painted by a painter in the style of another painter is it fake?

The movie continues to play with this idea of the illusion of creativity by stating at the beginning that Orson Welles will tell the truth for an hour…but the movie is 88 minutes long.  The last portion is a story made up by Welles and his then girlfriend Oja Kodar about Pablo Picasso and explains the validity of art…which is then revealed to be a fake story, but in revealing it is fake does it then become real again?

The problem (or plus) of the movie is the style.  It is very New Wave and post-modern with quick and dizzying edits.  The story doesn’t flow and there are so many pieces to the puzzle (including another jab at Welles’ Citizen Kane nemesis Howard Hughes via Irving) that it can quickly lose the viewer who is trying to figure out what is going on in any given sequence before it jumps to the next thought.

Orson Welles had a special touch and was always a revolutionary director.  Like it or hate it, F for Fake also has this revolutionary feel as Welles combines a weird style of shooting to loosely interwoven stories and an overall message which essentially reinforces his arguments on what is real, what is fake, and who makes that decision.  F for Fake is an interesting film, but I can’t say that everyone will love it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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