Review by Trylon volunteer David Berglund
From the moment of his film debut, it was clear that Orson Welles had an innate understanding of the power of cinema and a firm grasp of its unique language. His films were never conventional, instead drawing power from visual risks and unmatched innovation. He was as much concerned with film form as any filmmaker, and while his works maintain some thematic continuity (men searching for meaning, familial distrust, corrupted power), it is best to think of him first as an important directorial technician and second as an authorial voice. Perhaps this is why throughout his career, he as an established artistic titan regularly undertook the task of realizing pulp crime stories; these stories were never as interesting as how they were told. The truth is that Welles never wanted to change the world with his art – he simply wanted to enjoy its quirks while he could.
This is never more clear than in his “documentary” masterwork F for Fake, which by overtly exploring the ways film can manipulate audiences serves as a perfect marriage of his formal technique and parallel personal contemplations. Ostensibly an exploration of the life of art forger Elmyr de Hory, the film readily comes unhinged from traditional storytelling and moves in a stream of consciousness that slyly prods the sanctity of high art and the importance of truth. With F for Fake, Welles was never more sardonic, nor more candid. There is a clear sense he achieves a sort of personal catharsis in so publicly airing his grievances and thumbing his nose at an establishment he found particularly unwelcoming. It is ironic that in this film, a film demonstrating how film can confuse reality, we find our clearest portrait of Welles as a man.
That is not to say the film is somber or dull. Heavens, no. One thing Welles always made sure to do was entertain, and his film is always engaging, brimming with the dry, intelligent wit that made him so beloved. Yes, it is self-indulgent and digressive, but who better to hear ramble on than the grandiose figure of the great Orson Welles? He was here once again years ahead of his time, asserting his own voice as the film’s main focus and testing both his audience and the limits of film construction at every turn. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this would quickly become tedious, but with Welles, it is both a joy and a revelation. — David Berglund
David Berglund is an ardent film buff and loyal Trylon volunteer. When inspiration strikes, he collaborates with his wife Chelsea to write film reviews at moviematrimony.com and local theater reviews at howwastheshow.com.
F FOR FAKE screens Monday and Tuesday, May 18 and 19, at 7:00 and 9:00 at the Trylon. Advance tickets are $8.00, and you can purchase them here.