Orson Welles was one heck of an individual, and as renowned actor Simon Callow points out in his introduction to F FOR FAKE at the beautiful Triskel Christchurch, he had the majestic voice to match. There are so many ways to describe Orson Welles (actor, director, everything-or), but perhaps the most all-encompassing description is “narrator“. His voice (so often heard in his films from the three way perspective of director, narrator and star), god-like, was a constant reminder of his omnipresent identity. He made himself into an icon with unrelenting determination, expressed perhaps best, as Callow recalls, in his earnest declaration as he arrived at The Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1931 that he was a Broadway star from New York come to take all the best parts in the theatre. They believed him, of course. As if they had a choice in the first place.
The fact that CFF dedicated a whole arm of the festival to films that he made on the centenary of his death shows what kind of dedication the curators have to keeping the festival grounded in history. Indeed, following Callow’s brief but enlightening talk and just before the film started, we saw a clip from the oldest film festival in Ireland’s archives where Boris Karloff (most famous for his standard-setting turn at playing Frankenstein’s monster) is being interviewed. Random but sweet.
Context given, humbling tone set, thus commences Welles’s last major film which is best described as “nuts”, exploring the very notion of ‘fakeness‘, throwing all kinds of shade at the notion of ‘expertise‘, and more generally having the cheekiest of fun duping and double-duping the audience. Welles’s film feels like watching a fat tom cat toying gleefully with a mouse without the slightest intention of eating it. It is hyper and quiet in all the right places. Although impossible to pin down a clear narrative, what is clear conceptually is that this man saw not just the theatre or the movie set or the radio booth as places to perform but the entire world a place where you were constantly destroying and re-building your identity. A stage to strut on until your candle goes out. A constant dance between true and false, where the only worthy partner is art.
It’s all very existential of course, but in the most playful of ways, making the experience a fun rather than daunting one. A patchwork plot takes the form of the remarkable story of the great art forger Elmyr De Hory, who recounts his career as mischievously as Welles captures it. Also starring are Oja Kodar and biographer Clifford Irving – although the lines between star, onlooker, partaker and author are indistinguishably blurred.