Orson Welles's F for Fake [2 Discs] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1973]

The last feature film Orson Welles completed (as a director) in his lifetime, F for Fake is a wildly underappreciated title in his oeuvre, a bold, breezy, and muscular look at the fine art of fraud with plenty of asides about the nature of filmmaking, art, and the culture of expertise tossed in along the way. The film has never been especially easy to see in the United States, so The Criterion Collection's DVD release of the film is more than welcome, and has been presented with their typically lavish degree of attention to detail. F for Fake has been transferred to disc in letterboxed format at the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16 x 9 monitors. The clarity of the DVD transfer sometimes calls attention to the varying quality of the source materials (part of the movie was shot in 16 mm, while the rest was shot in 35 mm, and some of the older elements show obvious signs of wear), but the images are pin-sharp throughout, and the colors are rich and beautifully rendered. The audio has been presented in its original mix and mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, with admirably clear sonic presence. The film is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. As is their custom, Criterion have added plenty of relevant bonus materials for this release, most notably Orson Welles: The One-Man Band, a feature-length documentary produced for German television which traces the history of Welles' many unfinished films, with numerous rare film clips illustrating the movies that might have been. The same bonus disc also includes Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery, a documentary about master art forger Elmyr de Hory, who is also profiled in F for Fake (this film also includes some of the same footage shot by François Reichenbach that Welles used); a 60 Minutes profile of Clifford Irving in which he discusses his phony "autobiography" of Howard Hughes (also touched upon in F for Fake); and audio clips of Hughes' famous 1972 telephone "press conference" in which he discussed the controversy of Irving's unpublished book. The main disc has also been beefed up with additional material, including a commentary track featuring Welles' leading lady (and paramour) Oja Kodar and cinematographer Gary Graver, both of whom discuss working with the master on this and other projects, as well as an elaborate nine-minute trailer for F for Fake and an on-camera introduction from Peter Bogdanovich. And finally, Welles scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum contributes a lively essay on the film for the set's beautifully designed booklet. F for Fake is a film richly deserving rediscovery, and this presentation from Criterion gives it the authoritative tribute it richly deserves; anyone with an interest in Orson Welles and his films will be thrilled with it.
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Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Audio commentary by star and co-writer Oja Kodar and director of photography Gary Graver
  • Introduction by director Peter Bogdanovich
  • Extended nine-minute trailer
  • "Orson Welles: One-Man Band" (1995), an 88-minute documentary about Welles' unfinished projects
  • "Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery" (1997), a 52-minute documentary about art forger Elmyr de Hory
  • A 60 Minutes interview with Clifford Irving, from 2000, about his Howard Hughes autobiography hoax
  • A 1972 Hughes press conference exposing Irving's hoax
  • Plus: A new essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum


F for Fake
The final directorial project the legendary Orson Welles completed during his lifetime, F for Fake is less a documentary than an example of cinematic free association on the topic of trickery. Much of the film is in fact drawn from other sources, most notably an unfinished documentary by Francois Reichenbach on the notorious Elmyr de Hory, whose extremely skillful forgeries of famous paintings caused scandals amongst art collectors and experts. In an additional bit of irony, de Hory's interviewer is author Clifford Irving, who became infamous due to a forgery of his own: a falsified autobiography of Howard Hughes. Welles openly re-edits and manipulates this footage, using it as a spine for his own commentary, arguing that there is an extremely close relationship between art and lying, and citing instances from his own career to prove the point. Through a combination of documentary and staged footage, Welles attempts to illustrate the artifice behind all filmmaking, even that of a supposedly non-fiction variety. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Orson Welles
    Orson Welles - Himself
  • Image coming soon
    Oja Kodar - The Girl
  • Joseph Cotten
    Joseph Cotten - Guest
  • Image coming soon
    François Reichenbach - Special Participant
  • Paul Stewart
    Paul Stewart - Special Participant

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