There are a great many things that can be said of F is for Fake. It’s illusory, irreverent, pretentious, cheeky, ahead of its time, and mostly true. Welles was playfully doing a very interesting thing with breaking the fourth wall with the audience, or even the fifth wall with filmmakers and critics. Going further than just addressing the audience directly by looking into the camera (generating rapport). He steps intentionally in and out of the intended shot to reveal Oz behind the curtain.
Dressed much like a magician, he coaxes the audience into the belief that what was true were illusions and what was illusory were true. The pace of the cutting and changing of perspectives in the beginning were dizzying… confusing. Like the slight of hand he plays with the little boy, he sets the viewer up to disbelieve their own eyes and minds. He goes so far as to tell the viewer that for the first hour everything he says will be true.
The facts about Elmyr (the forger), Irving (the faker), Howard Hughes (the recluse), and Reichenbach (the filmmaker?) are all true. But with some slight of hand, or a 1970’s version of misdirection (naked Kodar, if it is even Kodar), he begins a falsehood that leaves the viewer questioning everything that they have just seen.
I found the film to be a delightful commentary on the value of art (or all things we consider to have value), the truth, experts, critics, and the structure of storytelling in film, even if Welles is a self-proclaimed and otherwise proven charlatan.
To take a tip from Orson, I might make an aside…
Here is an interesting take by Tony Zhou from the Every Frame A Painting channel on vimeo talking about how ahead of its time this film really was.