F is for Fake Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Joseph Cotton
  • Director: Orson Welles
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: October 21, 2014
  • Run Time: 87 minutes


            It is easy to see why F is for Fake is often called an “essay film,” because of how it transitions from one narrative of forgery to the next, each time connecting them with common threads. But it is also far more than that; a documentary with filmed sequences and original stories mixed in. It is an unpredictable viewing experience, which is what one would expect from the mind of Orson Welles, who becomes a link on the narrative chain along the way.


            Originally titled Hoax, the film is about various significant forgeries and fakes that have had significant impact. These include the art forgeries of Elmyr de Hory, the biography forgery of Howard Hughes by Clifford Irving, transitioning into the imitation of the infamous tycoon in his well-known classic, Citizen Kane. And if Welles made a film about artistic hoaxes, there is no way that his radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” can’t be mentioned. Welles pulls the audience in with this unconventional documentary style, distract us with the same precision of a magician.


            Upon reflection after watching F is for Fake, there is not much in the narrative that could not be explained fairly quickly. In fact, the final twenty-minute hoax at the end of the film was told by Welles in an interview with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” What makes up a majority of the film is a bit like watching a magic show, or at least listening to magicians talk about their tricks. At the same time, one must never forget the influencing presence of Welles as director, ever pulling the strings in the film’s puppet show. We are often too distracted to notice the little lies that are told to us along the way.


            The Blu-ray release of F is for Fake has a high definition digitally restored presentation of the film, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The special features include an audio commentary by Welles’ former girlfriend and co-star of the film, Oja Kodar, along with director of photography Gary Graver, recorded in 2005. There is also an introduction to the film from the 2005 DVD release by director Peter Bogdanovich. Additional archived features include a documentary from 1995 about the unfinished film projects of Orson Welles, a 1997 documentary about Elmyr de Hory, a 2000 interview with Clifford Irving on “60 Minutes,” and a 1975 interview with Welles from the talk show, “Tomorrow.” There is also an audio recording of the 1972 press conference given by Howard Hughes to expose Irving as a fraud, and the extended nine-minute trailer that Welles cut for the film. It was ultimately denied exhibition by U.S. distributors, possibly due to the length and inclusion of several topless shots of Kodar. The Blu-ray release also includes an insert booklet with an essay by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.


    Entertainment Value: 7/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10

    Historical Significance:  8/10

    Special Features: 9.5/10



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