Trickery, fraud, and illusion are the themes Orson Welles explores in this imaginative and intriguing film. In a time when everybody seems to be playing his/her own favorite con game, it certainly doesn't hurt to look at the way some of the masters have played theirs! At the center of this perambulating narrative are Elmyr de Hory (the art forger) and Clifford Irving (the biographer of de Hory and the creator of the Howard Hughes Hoax). Orson Welles enjoys boxes within boxes, and here he cleverly uses some documentary footage shot by François Reichenbach of the two con men chatting and cavorting on the island of Ibizia. The rotund writer/director adds a few magc tricks and a lecture on the cathedral of Chartres, then weaves a tale of deception himself about a lovely Yugoslav girl and her joke on Picasso.
In all of this, Welles puts forward some important and fascinating questions. Is a real work of art necessarily more interesting or inherently more valuable than its counterfeit? Has the charge of plagiarism outlived its usefulness? Has the public made de Hory and Irving folk heroes because they defied the experts? Can the film-maker ever evade the truth that his own craft is based on illusion, magic, and trickery?
In F For Fake, one of our century's most important directors uses the film medium as a way of investigating the nature of reality. Welles speaks only in fits and starts, but his fragments flamboyantly testify to the essential imperviousness of life's most basic mysteries.