F for Fake

Critics Consensus

F for Fake playfully poses intriguing questions while proving that even Orson Welles' minor works contain their share of masterful moments.



Total Count: 50


Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,437
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Movie Info

Orson Welles appears as himself in this witty and subversive film essay on fakery and forgery, art and illusion. Taking footage from an earlier Francois Reichenbach documentary on art forgery -- based on a book by the literary hoaxer Clifford Irving -- Welles worked his own clips into it, re-editing the original footage extensively. In the film, he tells of the success of his own fakeries, from the lies which got him into Ireland's Abby Theater, to his famous radio hoax about an invasion of Martians, and his subsequent career as an actor and film director. All of these memories are interspersed in a sort of documentary within a documentary about the art forger Elmyr de Hory -- a woman who conned Picasso out of almost two-dozen paintings -- and musings over the life of Howard Hughes and the man who forged an "autobiography" of Hughes, Clifford Irving. This 1973 production was the last full-length film Welles made.

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Critic Reviews for F for Fake

All Critics (50) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (6)

  • F For Fake is minor Welles, the master idly tuning his instrument while the concert seems never to start again. But it's engaging and fun, and it's astonishing how easily Welles spins a movie out of next to nothing.

    Oct 11, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The result is a curious, unsatisfactory pastiche of documentary tidbits acquired from Reichenbach and speculative filler supplied by Welles himself.

    Oct 11, 2015 | Full Review…
  • The last film to be completed by Orson Welles is also probably his most challenging. A tricksy combination of documentary, discourse and sleight of hand, F for Fake is as elusive as it is playful.

    Oct 11, 2015 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • For all its nods, winks and witty asides, it's a richly personal work, picking over the questions every creative artist must eventually ask: Am I 'for real'? Does it matter? And what is all this work worth, anyway?

    Oct 11, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • F for Fake is as grand, multitudinous, and original as Welles himself.

    Oct 11, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Welles stretches his material and his legend just about as thin as possible in this tedious treatise on truth and illusion.

    Oct 11, 2015 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for F for Fake

  • Sep 30, 2015
    F for Fake is both an entertaining and serious look at art without being pretentious or cynical. Orson Welles is great as the host, the cast is colorful, and the editing is superb.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 28, 2014
    This was the last major film completed by Orson Welles, who directed, co-wrote, and starred in it. This is not really a documentary, maybe can be called that very loosely, because operates in several different genres and maybe can be described even as a film essay of the professional art forger, Elmyr de Hory's. The story seems like a recounting of this amazing man's career, but very soon becomes obvious that de Hory's story serves only as the backdrop for a fast-paced, thorough but meandering investigation of the natures of authorship and authenticity, as well as the basis of the value of art! What is art? Many will attempt to give an answer, but at the end none of those would be satisfying! Especially when watching it, a viewer finds several narratives woven together throughout the film, including those of de Hory, Irving, Welles, Howard Hughes and Kodar. Irving's original role is to tell the story as de Hory's biographer, but his part grew unexpectedly - while French director François Reichenbach shot a documentary about de Hory and Irving before there were interesting moments for Welles, and after that they together shot additional footage with Reichenbach as a cinematographer. Why? Well, in the time between the shooting of Reichenbach's documentary and the finishing of Welles', it became known that Irving had perpetrated a hoax of his own, namely a fabricated "authorized biography" of Howard Hughes (the hoax was later fictionalized in The Hoax). In addition to the 85-minute film, in 1976 Welles also shot and edited a self-contained 9-minute short film as a "trailer", almost entirely composed of original material not found in the main film itself. Amazing theories, mostly proven, will shake a trust in the art "system of valuation"... but the art is no exception. This documentary just honestly shows us the world we live in and its values!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Feb 11, 2012
    A curious doc, but not a doc, a film about fakes told in a very bold way, but with Orson welles, here coming of superb and a fantastic watch, narrating, presenting and interacting throughout, delving into certain types of fakes seen in his lifetime, mainly focusing on a artist who was known as a forger and author on his tail, whom himself possibly a faker, and also delving into certain times of howard hughes and his dealings, the two interact nicely and welles direction and style fitting within, it has a charm and his powerful mischife voice adding plenty, he is a watch. a unconventional doc, using many methods to tell its story.
    scott g Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2011
    A totally unique experience, master director/actor (etc.) Orson Welles creates his late masterpiece with his expose on trickery.
    Graham J Super Reviewer

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