Battelle club brings in Welles-narrated 'F for Fake'

November 3, 2011 

This week's featured film, brought to you by the Battelle Film Club, is F for Fake — a 1973 documentary whose anchor subjects are Orson Welles and writer Clifford Irving.

The author rose to fame for writing Fake a biography of a-then famous French art forger Elmyr de Hory. Later, Irving’s great claim to fame became a fake of his own — a biography of legendary recluse, millionaire Howard Hughes.

Welles, who lied about his credentials to get acting jobs early in his career, has his own story. It’s the best broadcast fakery of all-time, the 1938 Mercury Players War of the Worlds.

The documentary juxtaposes all three cons and tacks an odd one on at the end about artist Pablo Picasso being scammed by a very beautiful woman that the film emphasizes is a head turner.

Tying the four stories together is a brilliant idea. Welles just doesn’t pull it off. His narration includes overwritten, way-too-artsy pontifications. The film bounces from one flimflam to another, never really landing. Too much time is spent dwelling on the artist, and the last con results as pointless padding to give the film enough length to make you willing to buy a ticket.

There are positives. In the 1970s, this was cutting-edge filmmaking. Irving was a hot topic and Welles a legend. Personally, I could listen to Welles narration all night. The guy had the best pipes of all-time. His voice is hypnotic. Here, he doesn’t have much to say, and what he did say could have been said in half the time.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars

Not rated. Probably PG-13 or R for brief nudity, mature themes. It plays one time — 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 at the Battelle Auditorium in Richland.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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