In our Four Films series we pick a theme and examine four different kinds of films on that theme. Today, Imposters – stories of people pretending to be someone else, some getting caught, and others getting away.
We begin our series with Dead Ringer (also known as Dead Image), a camp psychological thriller by Austrian-born director Paul Henreid. Bette Davis stars alongside Bette Davis as a pair of identical twins, Margaret and Edith, who have long been estranged after they both went after the same man. When the two meet again some years later, Edith impulsively murders her wealthy sister and assumes her identity, beginning to live the opulent life she always wanted. Despite some rather convenient plotting, Dead Ringer is an entertaining, albeit forgettable picture, that runs like a second-rate Hitchcock.
F for Fake
F for Fake, Orson Welles’s last major feature, is presented to you as a documentary about Elmyr de Hory, a notorious art-forger who sold thousands of fake paintings to several major art galleries. Welles, a self-proclaimed charlatan himself, narrates and utilises various editing techniques that deliberately leaves viewers questioning the story’s authenticity. Examining themes of authorship, deception and fakery, the film is in itself an imposter; disguised as a documentary about de Hory, but really about cinema and Welles himself. The film may not be the director’s best known work, but it gives us a great insight into the mind of this masterful trickster.
The Return of Martin Guerre
An infamous case of imposture in 16th century France is the subject of Daniel Vigne’s 1982 drama, The Return of Martin Guerre. Eight years after Martin Guerre (Gérard Depardieu) has left the village of Artigat to fight in a war, a man claiming to be Guerre returns to the surprise of his wife and child. Despite looking significantly different, the man is initially welcomed back by the village and his family, but as time passes questions of his identity arise. Later remade in America, The Return of Martin Guerre is a fascinating portrait of deception, marriage and religion that is both poignant and tragic.
Our last film in today’s feature is The Imposter, Bart Layton’s remarkable documentary about a French con-artist who successfully managed to convince a family in Texas that he’s their missing son. The movie doesn’t just tell a fascinating story, but does so in an incredible cinematic way that utilises interviews, reconstructions and dubbed voiceovers. Frédéric Bourdin, the imposter of the title, candidly speaks about his duplicity directly to the camera, and at one point he even disturbingly tries to con the audience in his tale.