The Criterion Collection presents Orson Welles’ F for Fake on DVD in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this 2-disc set. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.
Though 10 years’ old the transfer has held up wonderfully over the years. It’s a hectic film, with quick cuts made from different sources and film stocks, and his transfer is able to deliver it exceptionally well. The transfer is rather sharp and filled with a nice amount of detail, looks great in motion, and delivers some beautifully rendered colours. Blacks are also wonderfully rendered, appearing fairly inky and deep without crushing out detail. Compression is managed rather well though still obvious in places. Portions of the film, particularly those filmed on 16mm, are rather grainy and this is where compression and noise is most noticeable, but it in no way ruins one’s viewing.
The print looks to have been cleaned up though damage still remains, mainly in the 16mm footage, and it’s primarily limited to some dust and debris. A few minor scratches are also found throughout here and there. Other than that the film looks surprisingly good and the transfer does an outstanding job delivering it. 8/10
All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
This impressive 2-disc set of the film comes packed with a number of supplements spread over its two dual-layer discs. The first disc starts with an audio commentary featuring cowriter and star Oja Kodar and director of photography Gary Graver. The two have been recorded separately and edited together but Kodar has most of the control of the track. She had a lot of involvement in the construction and editing of the film, Welles collaborating with her a lot along the way. She gives a fairly extensive back story to the film’s inception, which was a straight documentary on art forger Elmyr de Hory, which Welles had taken over from someone else. When it came out that de Hory’s biographer Clifford Irving was involved in his scam, the fake autobiography of Howard Hughes, Welles decided to take the film in a far different and more playful direction. Not surprisingly there’s a lot of footage in the film that was meant for other films (the girl watching scene) and the film was primarily made up in the editing room. Graver talks about how he first came to work with Welles and shares many stories about him, even mentioning how when he and Welles were out and about Welles would randomly have him film locations. The two share a lot of stories about Welles, Kodar’s being more personal, and some amusing things around the film. It’s a very energetic track that manages to offer a few surprises.
Peter Bogdanovich’s Introduction also appears on the first disc. The barely 7-minute piece has Bogdanovich give a general overview of the film’s original documentary origins and how it morphed into the “documentary essay” it became. He goes over the structure of the film and its incredibly complicated editing, and then touches on the commercial failure of the film despite the link to the Hughes scandal (American distributors were still unsure how to distribute it). He then concludes by talking about Welles and their friendship and touches on the infamous The Other Side of the Wind, Welles’ last project that has been in legal hell for decades. Admittedly doesn’t add much since there’s more in-depth material here at least Bogdanovich offers another personal angle to the release.
The disc then closes with the film’s 9-minute theatrical trailer. Though playful and fun itself it’s not hard to see why distributors rejected it.
The second disc presents the remaining supplements. First is the 87-minute Orson Welles: One-Man Band that looks at some of his short films and a number of his unfinished films. Oja Kodar basically takes the lead on the film, apparently visiting the vault where his footage is kept and even visiting some of his other properties to look over his materials, from notes to paintings to the editing equipment. The film presents footage from a number of his unfinished films including The Deep (which he had to stop after years when Lawrence Harvey died), the TV film The Merchant of Venice, his apparent biographical film, and a surprising amount of footage from The Other Side of the Wind. It touches on a few other things, including his failed television pilot The Orson Welles Show, which is particularly great just for the Muppets interview. Though technically a documentary it obviously stages some things and tries to be playful itself, though I don’t know if this aspect really works. Still, just for all of the information on his unfinished work and the inclusion of a number of clips (which are mostly in fantastic condition I must say) it’s a very worthwhile feature.
Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery, a 1997 documentary about de Hory, has also been carried over. This documentary, which uses some of the footage found in F for Fake, is a far more straight forward piece about the forger, though this unfortunately means it’s much more generic and safe. It mostly goes through the motions, covering his early life, how he came to be a forger, and then his later life, including his arrest and apparent suicide. A number of people are interviewed, including Clifford Irving and de Hory’s roommate Mark Forgy, who does show up in F for Fake. Though certainly nowhere near as fun as F for Fake for those looking for something that does get into more detail about de Hory and concentrates specifically on him this is worth viewing. It runs about 56-minutes.
Criterion next pulls up 9-minute segment from an episode of 60-Minutes from 2000, which features Mike Wallace interviewing Clifford Irving. Wallace first talks about his original interview with Irving when he was promoting his Hughes “autobiography”, even displaying clips from it. The episode then moves on to his new interview with Irving. Irving admits he was a bit amused that Wallace and others seemed to be so willing to buy his lies and explains why he did what he did (basically fame, money, and the hope Hughes would never come forward). He expresses some shame and even talks about his time in prison. It’s hard to tell if he’s being entirely genuine about his regret and what prison was like but it’s another great inclusion.
And in another terrific inclusion Criterion presents audio from the Howard Hughes Press Conference where Hughes came out of hiding (though over the phone with reporters) to address the Irving fraud. The audio only feature presents a gallery you can flip through, presenting text of the questions asked by reporters. You can then play the audio to hear Hughes’ answer.
Hughes expresses his upset and surprise over Irving’s hoax and his frustration at how the publisher doesn’t appear to be willing to help him out. He also addresses some of the legends that had popped up about him over the years, like the long finger nails and hair. He does address why he is in hiding (sort of) and does promise to come out of hiding at some point, maybe even direct films again, though this never actually happened obviously. Hughes hints that a fear of kidnapping is his reason for being a recluse, though chances are it had more to do with his OCD. You get a sense that he knows how he lives is not normal, even if he doesn’t come right out and admit it, but he otherwise comes off very honest and actually quite funny. Some of this material appears in the main film but getting it here on its own is a real treat.
The release then includes a booklet featuring an excellent essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum on the film and Welles’ later career.
It’s a nicely rounded out release, one that I couldn’t imagine being topped (though Criterion did with their new Blu-ray edition, which also includes an interview with Welles himself). 9/10