American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Orson Welles can make better movies than most directors with one hand tied behind his back. His problem, of course, is that for 35 years the hand has remained tied. His career is a study in lost possibilities: Having made a legendary film debut at the age of 24 with "Citizen Kane" (1941), arguably the best American movie ever made, he was never again left totally free to make a film just the way he wanted to.
He came close, in films like "The Magnificent Ambersons" (with its ending re-shot by the studio) and "The Trial". But a film more typical of Welles' dilemma was "Falstaff - Chimes at Midnight" (1968), a triumph of artistic will over impending bankruptcy.
"Falstaff" is a great film, but for whole stretches of it Welles is faking it. He shot it without sound and dubbed most of the voices himself. He recruited a great supporting cast but had to shoot them at moments stolen over the years when he was able to raise money to go back into production. He included a great battle scene but had to place his camera in its midst because he had so few warriors.
Now comes Welles' latest work, forthrightly titled "F For Fake." It's a film about fakes and frauds, including the art forger Elmyr de Hory, the biography forger Clifford Irving, the mystery man Howard Hughes and even the young Orson Welles of the famous "War of the Worlds" hoax.