Monday, December 10, 2007

Two Fakes

If you ask me to name my favourite of all Orson Welles’ films, I wouldn’t say Citizen Kane. Not that I want to dismiss what’s widely (and rightly) regarded as his masterpiece, but there’s another film that’s much more fascinating, less well known, and far more characteristic of the arch-trickster who once made a large portion of America believe that Martians were invading. That film is F for Fake. Yet to describe it as a film is to misrepresent it. It’s more of a documentary, though that isn’t quite right either. It’s perhaps better described as an oddity. There really is nothing quite like it.

It’s about illusion, scam, trickery. Welles the magician steps before the camera to act as our guide through the world of forgery. Cheaply made and, for years, hard to find until its recent appearance on DVD, it’s the story of two forgers, one, Elmyr de Hory, working in the art world, and one a writer, Clifford Irving, who famously forged the official biography of Howard Hughes. Not only is it an example of how Welles used film to tell great stories, it is also a reminder that fiction is somehow more compelling than fact.

All this came to mind this weekend when I sat down and watched The Hoax, another film about forgery, this time dealing with the story of how Clifford Irving came to write the most notorious unpublished biography of the twentieth century. Based on the Irving's account of events, it stars my least favourite actor of all time, Richard Gere, yet it’s among the best films I’ve seen all year. How I equate the two facts, I’m not yet sure. I’m certain, however, that it stands as a testament to his performance, so worthy of an Oscar nod next year.

Gere doesn’t even look like Gere. This isn’t a film about good looks as much as the illusion of piety. Pretty soon, I’d forgotten all about those annoying swaggering performances he consistently turned out in the eighties. He was simply the talented novelist facing ruin when his career is derailed by critics. Finding revenge in a book proposal for the biography of the most reclusive man of the century, Irving’s one small lie soon becomes the biggest hoax in the history of publishing as publishers greedily offer him more dizzying amounts for ‘the book of the century’. He drives the film as Irving’s grip on reality begins to slip.

Set in the 1970s, The Hoax is pertinent to a modern world awash with hoaxes. What gives Clifford Iriving’s story an extra edge, however, is that it is played out against the broader picture of Howard Hughes’ relationship with the Nixon administration, Watergate, and the perpetual willingness of people to believe what they want to believe.

It’s out on DVD in this country in February, but if you go to any American retailer, it’s available now. Irving’s ‘biography’ of Hughes is finally being published next year. I, for one, can’t wait to read it.


elberry said...

Great post, Chipster. And there are some suspect characters hanging around Madeley's blog.

Ms Baroque said...

Er - he DOES look like Richard Gere. Annoyingly.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Film critic - is there no end to your talents, Chip? As for hoaxes, well yes. Some have even suggested that some bloggers are not all they seem. I'm most certainly not me.

Now, as for Ms Baroque, is Gabby not jealous?

Ms Baroque said...

Bretwalda, sorry - is Gabby not jealous of Richard Gere? I'm sure she's MUCH cuter than that stick-in-the-mud! I'll say this for Gabs and me though - she;s really her, and I'm really me!


Dovid said...

Thanks for the film reviews Chip. After reading your last review on Rescue Dawn I ecided to give it a viewing. It brought back many happy memories....the scenes in the Vietnamese POW camp reminded me of the happy days I spent working at Butlins.

Daily Referendum said...

Write something you bum.

titchman said...

Has Chip been hijacked by Dick Madeley?

Dovid Beckman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big Chip Dale said...

Oh, away for a few days and I'm missed.

Elberry, there are always suspect characters there.

MS. Baroque, I know what you're saying but watch the film. He's really good.

Dovid, I think you're exaggerating for comic effect. Vietnam was never that bad.

Steve, I am writing but it's the Christmas mood getting to me early. And I'm so busy at night working the clubs. It's my busiest time of year.

Titchman, clearly not. We made peace long ago. He's very supportive.

10000 Smiley Faces said...

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lewisham kate said...

Have a merry christmas Chip ;0)

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