F For Fake

F For Fake (1976)
Criterion Collection
Cast: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Joseph Cotten, Laurence Harvey
Extras: Commentary Track, Introduction, Extended Trailer, Documentaries, Interview, Essay, and more

Criterion has recently released the 2-disc Orson Welles essay/documentary, 1976's "F For Fake".

It is exceptional. In 1938, Welles On-the-Air Mercury Theatre broadcast "War of the Worlds". It was a hoax… But it caused a nationwide panic. Listeners were convinced that the Earth was being invaded by Mars. RKO Studios signed Welles to direct "Citizen Kane" in 1941. It is regarded by many as the best film ever made. In the end, Welles had conquered stage, radio, and the cinema.

The flawless DVD, "F For Fake", features an anamorphic, digitally-restored transfer in a 1.66:! aspect ratio. Disc One is Welles' 1976 essay/documentary, a dazzling, non-linear, freeze-frame interview of art forger Elmyr de Hory, culled from a 35mm and a blown-up 16mm print. Elmyr's biographer, Clifford Irving, is later exposed as the fraudelent chronicler of Howard Hughes. "F For Fake" features Welles, Joseph Cotten, Laurence Harvey, and Welles' mistress and friend, Oja Kodar.

"F For Fake" includes footage from France, Rome, and Southern California, including shots of Howard Hughes' bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel (bungalow #4) and it was sadly the last film Welles ever directed.

The prolific extras on this Criterion release include an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich, a 9-minute trailer (curiously un-restored), and a Commentary Track.

Disc Two contains the elusive 88-minute documentary, "Orson Welles: One-Man Band". It has never before been available on film, video, or DVD (I saw it once, 2 years ago on late-night cable). The 1995 "One-Man Band" examines Welles lost/unfinished movies. This treasure trove includes scenes from "The Other Side of the Wind", "The Deep", and reportedly, his mysterious "Don Quixote(A work in progress, on-and-off, for 15 years, but never completed)". Welles reads fragments from Herman Melville's "Moby Dick." He stares into the camera. He pauses. He is electrifying.

Sadly, "One-Man Band" is largely unrestored. Damaged jump shots from "Othello" and "The Wind" are spliced into scenes of Oja Kodar driving down Hollywood Boulevard. Jump cuts abound, as 16mm and 35mm footage are mish-mashed together. "One-Man Band" is a cinematic triumph. And a technical fiasco.

Disc Two has another stunning documentary, an essay, a "60 Minutes" excerpt, and a Howard Hughes press conference.

Director, actor, writer, painter, magician. Orson Welles was perhaps, the greatest auteur of the 20th Century. Big words. Big man. Big cigar. Welles once said that we are all really 2 or 3 different people inside. Was Orson Welles a fake?