I’m sporadically willing to overlook this stinginess, however, and the new 2-disc set honoring Orson Welles’s F for Fake is such an occasion. As the film is currently being discovered by a new generation of film people who seem to have a lot to say about it elsewhere, I’m sure my take on it would be redundant.
The film once prompted me to track down Clifford Irving’s book, Fake: The Story of Elmyr De Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time and investigate the two principal fakers revealed in Welles’s film. Irving once received a lot of publicity (and a jail sentence) for his bogus account of Howard Hughes, but his personal involvement with Elmyr provided their book with a flavor all its own.
Among the bells and whistles adorning Criterion’s release is the bonus feature, Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery (1997). A thin, made-for-TV bio sketch of Elmyr, it draws on some of the footage shot by Francois Reichenbach for his unfinished documentary—footage Welles picked up and reshaped in what is ultimately a fake documentary about fakers. (With apologies to those using the buzzword, I just can’t bring myself to buy the chatter about “essay films.”) In the new film, old friends of the late art forger are informed that a Japanese museum is holding an exhibit of Elmyr’s fakes. But upon perusing photographs of the featured art in the museum’s catalog, all of them agree the exhibit is a fraud, that these are not original Elmyr fakes, but fakes of Elmyr’s fakes! Welles would’ve loved that.