“Don’t be spooked by the experts.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Welles uses the fortuitous revelation of Irving’s fraudulent book about Howard Hughes (nicely told, btw, in the 2006 film The Hoax, starring Richard Gere as Irving) as an excuse to blast the notion of artistic “truth” completely out of the water. It’s no surprise Welles was fascinated by this material: a notorious trickster himself, he staged the most infamous hoax in American history back in 1938 by broadcasting H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” over the radio as though a Martian invasion was really occurring (an event he alludes to in the film).
Welles bookends his movie with a cinematic lust paean to his lover and final companion in life, Oja Kodar — first by showing clips from what may or may not be an authentic “Candid Camera”-like attempt to document men’s ogling reactions to Kodar as she sashays down the street in a form-fitting dress:
… and later by telling a just-so story about an encounter between Kodar’s grandfather (presumably an infamous Hungarian art forger in his own right) and a teed off Pablo Picasso. By the end of Welles’ trickily edited film, he has successfully convinced us that there may very well be no such thing as “truth” when it comes to storytelling — and that we should be duly forewarned. Knowing ex post facto that the footage Welles used of de Hory and Irving wasn’t his own (he “borrowed” it from the French filmmaker Francois Reichenbach) simply adds one more delicious dimension to this mind-bending cinematic essay.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: