F For Fake (Welles, 1975): BFI Southbank, on extended run to September 20
Chicago Reader review:
'Orson Welles's underrated 1973 essay film—made from discarded
documentary footage by Francois Reichenbach and new material from
Welles—forms a kind of dialectic with Welles's never-completed It's All True.
The main subjects are art forger Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Howard
Hughes, Pablo Picasso, Welles himself, and the practice and meaning of
deception. Despite some speculation that this film was Welles's indirect
reply to Pauline Kael's bogus contention that he didn't write a word of
Citizen Kane, his sly commentary—seconded by some of the
trickiest editing anywhere—implies that authorship is a pretty dubious
notion anyway, a function of the even more dubious art market and its
team of “experts.” Alternately superficial and profound, the film also
enlists the services of Oja Kodar, Welles's principal collaborator after
the late 60s, as actor, erotic spectacle, and cowriter, and briefer
appearances by many other Welles cohorts. Michel Legrand supplies the
Here is the most impressive part of the film, Welles' paean to Chartres Cathedral.
Here are Welles's words: 'Now this has been standing here for centuries. The premier work of man
perhaps in the whole western world and it’s without a signature:
Chartres. A celebration to God’s glory and to the dignity of man. All
that’s left most artists seem to feel these days, is man. Naked, poor,
forked, radish. There aren’t any celebrations. Ours, the scientists keep
telling us, is a universe, which is disposable. You know it might be
just this one anonymous glory of all things, this rich stone forest,
this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand choiring shout of affirmation,
which we choose when all our cities are dust, to stand intact, to mark
where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us, to accomplish.
Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared, some of them for a
few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in
war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash. The triumphs and
the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life. We’re going to
die. “Be of good heart,” cry the dead artists out of the living past.
Our songs will all be silenced – but what of it? Go on singing. Maybe a
man’s name doesn’t matter all that much. (Church bells peal…)'