Orson Wells’ compelling and masterfully edited, F for Fake is a documentary unlike anything that you have ever seen. Playing more like an editorial showcase on cinematic techniques, F for Fake gives its audience a brief glimpse into the mind of an artistic genius.
Wells opens his piece with a commentary on fakery of all kinds, while inhabiting the role of a magician captivating a young child. Every bit as disorienting as the magician’s act, Wells’ editing meanders through his narration of trickery, while serving as an apt introduction to his feature. He introduces his introduction, and must reassure his audience that, “For the next hour, everything you hear from us is really true and based on solid fact”. Partly because he makes the promise in his menacing and sinister voice, and partly because he spends the first several minutes of the film telling his audience that everything is a lie, this promise comes as little consolation, and serves to add even more unease. Wells then dives into his loosely-woven tale of art forgery and slander. Completely deviating from any semblance of real narrative structure, Wells pieces together documentary footage from François Reichenbach, footage from a multitude of other pictures and 35mm film from his own direction. Wells is somehow able to still tell a story, one of an infamous art forger (Elmyr de Hory) and the other regarding the downfall of his biographer (Clifford Irving), in one complete piece. Not simply cutting between the two opposing stories, Wells inserts small digressions answering his own rhetorical questioning, and interjects entire segments of his own opinions. While there is no trace of any real structure or even story, Wells is able to make his film incredibly compelling to those willing to follow him down the rabbit hole.