F for Fake and Ratatouille are kind of the same movie.

I mean, no, they’re not exactly the same. But they’re both mostly about someone taking credit for another person’s art, with strong critiques of the commercial business of art and a subplot deconstructing the relationship that art critics and other art experts have with artists and their creations. They’re even both directed by highly respected auteurs trying to salvage a project that the original director couldn’t complete.  It’s just that one of those auteurs is Brad Bird (The Iron GiantThe Incredibles) and the other is Orson Welles (Citizen freaking Kane). The conclusions that both of the films come to are disparate, but contradictory.

First, a bit of plot summary. Ratatouille is a film about a rat that manages to become the head chef at a Parisian restaurant that somehow used to have 5 stars despite the Michelin rating system only going up to three stars. He achieves this by pulling the hair of his hapless human companion, which controls the human like a marionette. It’s my favorite PIXAR film of all time. F for Fake is an Orson Welles mostly-non-fiction film that is about two of the most notorious fakers of the 20th century. The first is Elmyr de Horay, an art forger that specialized in the post-impressionists, particularly Picasso and Modigliani. The second, and more famous of the two, is Elmyr’s biographer Clifford Irving, who also wrote a best-selling, but fake, autobiography of an even more famous man– a business tycoon by the name of Howard Hughes.

The things to unpack in these films are mostly the questions that they raise about the nature of art and art criticism. Kyle Kallgren’s review of F for Fake begins with the question “Is there such a thing as fake art?” I would posit that both films say the answer is “no”, but for different reasons.

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