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Being Wild Or Faking It

F For Fake

By Adam Thomas

Friday March 25, 2005

Welles and Kar Wai at the Cinematheque

While we wait for the late spring/summer blockbusters to arrive here are a couple of gems to keep you occupied. Both are playing at the Pacific Cinematheque.

F for Fake — March 27-30, 2005
Legend has it that Orson Welles practiced a little magic in case his career came to an early end. On Halloween night in 1938 at the age of 23, he changed radio forever with the infamous broadcast of War of the Worlds. At 25 he made Citizen Kane. Later, Welles would reflect that he should have quit while he was ahead. Suffering from poor box office sales combined with the fallout over Kane with publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, disastrous clashes with studio heads over control, and a label as a spoiled wonder boy, Welles would spend the rest of his career working his way from one project to the other, hashing out a living — “hustling” he called it — trying continually, to raise the money for his own projects. In 1974, after years of hustling, Orson Welles found his way to the island of Ibiza to make what would be his last directorial effort. Conveniently using large parts of another documentary by Francois Reichenbach, Welles would produce F for Fake, a genre bending, and mind-messing commentary about the art of fakery, forging and fraud.

Combining footage shot by Reichenbach with his own footage, Welles weaves together an illusionary examination of the story of Elmyr de Hory —an international art forger, of Clifford Irving — the fraudulent biographer of the art forger, and of the whole notion of art and artifice, truth and fiction.

Elmyr de Hory is an eccentric faker. His capacity for art forgery is pretty impressive and he has made a modestly indulgent living selling forged paintings by artists like Picasso and Matisse to galleries around the world. Clifford Irving is his biographer who breaks the story about Elmyr, who later, fraudulently wrote the autobiography of post Aviator super recluse Howard Hughes; a claim that prompted Hughes to break silence and call reporters to deny any knowledge of the writer at all. Through all of this Welles orchestrates and narrates the film, which plays as a conversation about the value of art and its relation to the illusion of truth. With a real life art forger at the heart of it, all meaning is up for grabs. Welles plays devil’s advocate and maestro as scenes are re-edited, re-ordered and re-played, creating a playfully funny, sly wink of a film that challenges the very authenticity of everything we see and begs the question — is a great forgery not also a great work of art?

Days of Being Wild — March 31-April 4, 2005

As a filmmaker Wong Kar Wai has been imported and celebrated by Quentin Tarantino for his film Chungking Express (’94), a film largely responsible for introducing western audiences to the inventively influential and rapid-fire style of the Hong Kong New Wave. With a propensity for revisited and displaced pop music soundtracks his films have commonly dealt with the loneliness of people struggling to find a connection. Marking the first collaboration with Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle and actress Maggie Cheung, Days of Being Wild (’90) is a lush and tempered story of a young man in 1960’s Hong Kong who tragically wants nothing more than to find out who his real mother is. But like in life, the greater narrative is filled with failed relationships and momentary relief as Yuddy, played as passively brooding by Leslie Cheung, struggles to come to terms with his own identity and with the conflicts of commitment to those around him. Wong Kar Wai’s films consistently offer genuine human moments, where characters occupy a time and place filled with beautiful colours and believable emotional states. There is a romantic, distant humanity to all of his films and Days of Being Wild rolls out as an honest exploration of identity and self, where choices and mistakes inevitably define who we are.