orson welles and the monkey with the itchy butt

audio version (give it a listen instead or right click/control click to download)

I know, you thought my obsession with art might wain right? Or perhaps you know me well enough by now to get that these quirky interests ebb and flow but probably never completely fade away.

So there was this movie that Mike wanted to rent. Ah, a quick explanation: “he who teaches me about sports” and the like has requested to be renamed because although I meant the phrasing with love and affection, he sees it as way too similar to the naming of Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, so now he gets to be called by his name. The movie was Orson Welles’ 1974 film F is For Fake about the art forger Elmyr de Hory.

Now I am by no means recommending that you watch this film. It was structured so strangely that I couldn’t really follow the story. But there are two things that came out of the experience, or 3/4ths of an experience.

First, there was this flipping tiny monkey in many of the shots. I have no idea why. No one ever talks about the monkey but often the camera/editor would cut to this ridiculous animal which was almost always (seriously 9 times out of 10) scratching its butt. Again, no idea why that was relevant to the story being told. But it was the most interesting thing going on, and we are talking about an art forger who passed off his work as Picasso and Modigliani so take that as you will. The joke between Mike and I quickly became “But first, here’s a monkey with an itchy butt.” Yet another potential life-long catch phrase that will reduce us to hysterics.

The second lesson has to do with the referenced 3/4ths. Yes, try as we might there was no way that we were going to made it through the entire movie. It was too chaotic, too difficult to follow and we have so little down time. But this is a new thing for me. Normally I would just sit and watch it, waiting patiently until it was over even though I wasn’t fully or really (sorry all those that loved the film) enjoying myself. And no, it was not even going to be salvaged by that butt-scratching monkey. But now I know that it was okay and that the world wouldn’t crumble if I stopped the DVD. Orson Welles wasn’t going to be angry, well maybe he would be but he would have to deal. Sorry Orson, I think the “clever” editing weakened the story you were trying to tell. It was so freeing to just stop. To spend the time doing something else. And of course, make about 100 references to that monkey. See it doesn’t get old?!

So while I am sure that this isn’t news to you and that you might have had greater success in this regard, I have often found it difficult to speak my mind or act on my impulses in a life situation where I worry about doing something wrong or being seen as a bad person. And each situation will have to be assessed individually but I can carry the awesome feeling of hitting stop on the DVD player into other areas that don’t make me happy or don’t serve me. I do promise you and myself that I will give it a good think and try before saying “no” or stopping because if we hadn’t watch the film at all I would never have learned about the incredible extent of du Hory’s forgeries which are worth investigating. And it was Orson Welles’ last film, so there’s that. And my dear little monkey, well that’s just a gift I will never forget.

Here’s wishing you fierce decision-making, joy-filled down time and perhaps some animal hilarity (please write me if you see something great),



  1. Gailen Audie
    June 25, 2010

    I know you’re writing some about the pressure being taken off, so your turning off the dvd should have no consequences and shouldn’t prevent any great revelations from entering your brain: But what if this is exactly what Orson Welles wanted? I wouldn’t put it past him. I know this isn’t what you’re trying to do, but you’ve made me want to see the film :).

    Do you like horror films? Ken and I watched “Black Christmas” on Netflix instant the other night. It has nothing to do with your blog – except the “something great” part. From 1974. Olivia Hussey. I don’t want to oversell it though. But, if you like horror films….I have no idea if you do…this is a good one.

    Also, the monkey reminds me of the fox in Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist”…I’m a big fan of his, though – so I kind liked the film.

    • admin
      June 27, 2010

      I would be very interested in your take on the film, and perhaps some day I will try it again… never say never. In terms of horror movies, well I often freak myself out just imagining how much the movie is going to scare me so it’s a hit or miss attempt each time. I will add it to the recommendation list! Hope you are well and glad the wedding was wonderful (even the hail).


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