***½/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B+
starring Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving
written and directed by Orson Welles
by Bryant Frazer In 1971, Pauline Kael did her best to kill Orson Welles. In "Raising Kane," an essay originally published in THE NEW YORKER and later used as a lengthy introduction to the published screenplay, she argued that Welles had unfairly taken authorial credit for a film whose real creative force was Welles's credited co-screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz. Kael's piece was persuasive but hardly comprehensive, cherry-picking evidence in an effort to make a liar of Welles. (In his definitive 1978 book The Making of Citizen Kane, Robert Carringer described Kael's charge that Welles did not contribute to the script as "a flagrant misrepresentation," although he did allow that Welles may have hoped not to credit Mankiewicz.) Making the case against Kane was an opportunity for Kael to escalate her ongoing crusade against the auteur theory; it doesn't seem that she held any personal grudge against Welles, especially given her loving notice for his Chimes at Midnight, made just a few years earlier. But for the aging Welles, by that time a subject of mockery in Hollywood who struggled to finance even the most bargain-basement film projects, the apparently unprovoked attack must have stung. F for Fake is his elegant response: a good-natured but deeply-felt riposte, executed with his considerable showmanship and meant to humble artist and critic alike.