Tuesday, June 26, 2007

F For Fake - A Review

1 Men - 3 Tzec ( - Mayan date

There are probably a few other posts on OM about this film, but I've only just seen it for the first time this past week (well, twice - I watched it again a few days after the first viewing). It's long featured on R.A.W.'s favourite films lists over the years and I've been interested in checking it out for quite a while now. I'm not sure if it was out-of-print for awhile, but it's been re-issued (in the UK) by Eureka! this past February--so I added it to the Amazon rental list.

The film starts with it's "star", Orson Welles, performing conjuring tricks and announcing himself as a 'charlatan' in a train station. The setting then 'cuts' to a film studio and Welles announces that "for the next hour, we will be telling the truth with all of the available facts" Hmmmm...and those "facts" seem to be very bendy. The next sequence involves Oja Kodar (Welles' companion at the time) walking down a street in a (very early 70s) minidress, being ogled by several male onlookers, while Orson tells us that the men were secretly filmed watching her. In most of the shots of the men, Kodar is not actually seen and all you hear is the click-clack of her high heels--so I wasn't sure if the men were actually looking at her..or were just filmed looking at something not in the frame. That sort of ambiguity sets up the rest of the film.

The main bulk of "F For Fake" centres around Elmyr, the notorious art-forger and Clifford Irving, another notorious hoaxster, 'famous' for his autobiography of reclusive millionaire, Howard Hughes, which was shown to be fake (Irving went to prison for the cover-up). Welles shows the pair on Ibiza, living it up at parties attended by the beautiful people, the art crowd and the jet setters. Welles posits that two of the world's greatest living fakers were on the island together and weren't even aware of each other's presence - do you "believe" that? I'm not sure - but it led to Irving writing his book, Fake!, about De Hory. They also shared a connection in Edith Sommer, Irving's wife (who later posed as "Helga R. Hughes" and deposited the publishing advance for the Hughes bio into a Swiss bank account, which led to the unravelling of the hoax)--the waters get murkier. All of this is shown in a series of "jump-cuts", giving the scenes a 'swirly', disorienting feel--heightening the vagueness of the story line and the 'characters'.

A bit of background is given on Elmyr by Orson, while dining in a restaurant, surrounded by an entourage and with paintings on the walls by Jean Cocteau and others. Elmyr was born in Hungary and studied art in Paris, afterward struggling to make a living as an artist. He was interned in a concentration camp by the Nazis during WWII, and was one of the fortunate survivors. He made his way to the U.S. in the 50s and having already started his forging career, sold a mix of original works and forgeries, the fakes proving too lucrative to give up entirely. He left for Europe again (supposedly with the FBI on his trail) and eventually settled in Ibiza in the late 60s. It's also said that Elmyr never really made much money from his fakes. But "are" these the 'facts'? We're never quite sure.

Irving doesn't get as much background--only his supposed connection with Hughes--which Hughes denied, or at least claimed to deny, but that was only over a loudspeaker at an interview conducted by telephone--so was the "real" Howard Hughes' voice coming through the line, or a double (which he was rumoured to have in his service), as Irving claimed. Again, we just don't know for certain. Welles even chucks in the tabloid rumours about Hughes wearing tissue boxes as shoes and says "But I suppose if you can believe THAT..", in relation to Irving's claim that he had secured an actual interview with the extremely publicity-shy tycoon. Welles also features his own greatest hoax - the 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds, which seemed so "real" to listeners that many fled their homes from the supposed 'Martian invasion'. Hughes gets another mention as a possible model for Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, though I always thought Randolph Hearst was "Kane". Maybe both were melded into the character of Charles?

Orson then soliloques against a backdrop of the Chartres Cathedral, possibly about the "meaning" of art and the triumph of humankind's expression in a "disposable universe" (according to 'the scientists', says Welles). I found it quite a poignant moment, amidst of all of the trickery and fun-house mirrors--it ends with this: "'Be of good heart,' cry the dead artists out of the living past. Our songs will all be silenced - but what of it? Go on singing. Maybe a man's name doesn't matter all that much."

In the final act - Kodar reappears as the lead in a story about Pablo Picasso and a Scandinavian jazz trombonist. It seems ol' Pablo was watching Kodar walk by his villa every day (there's a clever use of photos and cut-outs of Pablo sulking behind venetian blinds in this bit), becomes enamored and invites her in one day. They become lovers and he has a sudden burst of creativity--painting 22 large canvasses over a summer. Oja puts a price on her companionship and demands Picasso give her the paintings...all of them. He agrees to this and hands them over. She takes them to Paris and sets up an exhibition. Picasso hears about this and wings it to the City Of Light--arrives at the gallery and lays into Kodar something fierce. He then realizes that the paintings being displayed aren't the ones he painted. He confronts Kodar, who takes him to see her grand-father, a famous Hungarian art-forger. They battle over whether the paintings "are" Picasso's, even though he didn't paint them--with neither convincing the other that he "is" correct. In the end, Picasso demands his original paintings back and he is told that the art-forger has "burned them"--and Picasso relents to the pleas of the forger that he give the forger "a whole Picasso period". Sounds good? Orson steps in at the end to let the viewer know that the "hour of truth" had finished 17 minutes previously and that the whole Picasso/Kodar affair was a fake--but never lets on that the hour before that may have been a fake as well.

I enjoyed "F For Fake", though there may have been a subconcious desire to like the same films as one of my heroes--but I think it was much more than that. I liked the Escher-esque quality of a fake-within-a-fake (a "mockumentary" within the medium of film), which may have been one of the first of it's kind. Is it one of the best films you'll ever see? I suspect not..and yet it's very good at what it attempts. Welles shows you the illusion right up close and then whisks it away--or trades one illusion for another. He tries to break you out of one trance (the medium of film) and steers you into another (Elmyr and Irving's stories) and it seems masterfully done to me. I'm not sure how older prints of the film looked, but the new print looks pretty crisp to me--definitely worth a look. It's pretty, but is it art?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Latest edition stumbles into the light

I can feel the presence of Eris this Solstice.
The new edition of MQ#11 has arrived, and you can find it here.

[except today that link seems to have sometimes reverted to pointing to Issue #10, the RAW Memorial - like I said, some kakodaemons seem to have got into the works]
I will revert to my own previous version of this post, which at least relates to the picture above, and to Bobby's Inundation of the Nile picture of Isis and Osiris which I had lifted for the permanent link on the right...The Arrival of Hapi (god of fertility)...so perhaps I should have wished you all a Hapi Solstice?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
W.B.Yeats (1919)
I realise that most-but-not-all people around the MLA find Crowley more interesting than Yeats, and probably most Eng Lit people who like Yeats know very little about his life in magick (and battles with Crowley). Well, that'll give you something to research until we get back online.
I don't know if the 'rough beast slouching' comment counts as a sly dig at Crowley and the New Aeon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bogus MLA Courses

Accept no cheap substitutes! Fakes and Simulations have flooded the market!
For three years now, the MLA has offered high-quality online courses to people from all around the world [but only in English, so far].

Robert Anton Wilson ran all the first few courses, but slowly the range of tutors has expanded, and also the subjects tackled. Current instructors include Patricia Monaghan, Rev. Ivan Stang, Philip H. Farber, Antero Alli, Peter J. Carroll, Starhawk, R. U. Sirius, Douglas Rushkoff and David Jay Brown.

Of course, not everyone has sufficient time to study, and those with time on their hands may not have the money…but you can always join the general forum, for the flavour of the place. If you understand the freelance life you may understand why tutors need paying (!) and the course fee also means you get a closed environment, with concentrated energy from other students, rather than the potentially dispersive/disruptive content of free-for-all forums, which you can find on the web on almost any subject, and which certainly have a value of their own.

As RAW graduated to His Serene Absence earlier this year, we can never complete some of the assignments he set us. The feedback he got from participants meant he continued to tune his teaching methods and subject matter from course to course. He would certainly have noted a certain disappointment in sombunall students that in one of his last (and very ambitious) 12-week courses [The Tale of The Tribe] we failed to cover all the ground that the Syllabus hinted at. As it happens, those of us who enjoyed the course did not mind that we focussed on just some of the material on offer (we still assumed we could do pick-ups later). You can only do so much in 3 months.

Anyway – for those who wanted less Joyce and Pound, and more on the communications/information people of the 20th Century, I have begun encouraging the creation of brief teasers/tasters or possible courses in the open forum. And yes, I did mean them as a joke, before you ask…MLA may eventually initiate self-directed courses on some of these, or seek out appropriate tutors, but meanwhile you can join in relaxed conversation about McLuhan, Gregory Bateson, Bucky Fuller, Shannon, Bandler, Korzybski, Nietzsche, etc.

[2014 update] Although that generation of the forum has gone into hiding, I did find a link to that thread on the Wayback Machine.  For what it's worth.   aka Bogus


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