Part essay, part apologia, part prank, Orson Welles's F FOR FAKE, one of the most inventive and invigorating nonfiction features ever made, is about the artist as con man and the con man as artist. Welles's two primary fonts of inspiration were the muse of melancholy and the muse of
mischief, and in F FOR FAKE he invoked the latter muse more zestfully than in any other film of his career.
"I'm a charlatan," acknowledges Welles at the beginning of F FOR FAKE, and "this is a film about trickery and fraud--about lies." After pledging that everything we will see in the next 60 minutes is true, Welles introduces us to Elmyr de Hory, a brilliant forger of artworks, an...