An unreliable narrator in the unsettling documentary The Imposter | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

An unreliable narrator in the unsettling documentary The Imposter 

Talk about your unreliable narrators. The unsettling documentary The Imposter tells the bizarre story of French con man Frederic Bourdin, who, in 1997, impersonated a missing Texas teenager and lied his way into the United States.

Bourdin not only fooled European cops, U.S. immigration officials and the FBI, he even fooled the family of Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old who had disappeared four years earlier. Nonetheless, the Barclays took in Bourdin—23 at the time—as their missing son, despite Bourdin's accent, his lack of physical resemblance to Nicholas and his outrageous story of kidnapping and amnesia.

It seems impossible, but the film lays out how such a scenario can snowball as people believe what they want to believe. Bourdin himself, filmed in uncomfortable close-up, narrates much of the movie in talking-head segments that are woven into dramatic re-creations of the events of the case.

The story is inherently fascinating, but that's apparently not enough for director Bart Layton. The film employs stylized audio and video treatments throughout, plus some highly suspect narrative ploys to generate suspense. The twists toward the end seem dramatic, until you think them through, and the final scenes reveal just how selectively the movie was assembled. When the shovel-wielding private investigator shows up for his Geraldo Rivera moment, you know you're getting jerked around.

This manipulation doesn't seem to bother people, though; the movie has been a hit on the festival circuit, including this year's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham. The Imposter clearly wants to bust through artificial walls of the documentary form, but it unnecessarily breaks a lot of rules.

The filmmakers don't trust their material, which is a shame. In the person of Bourdin, they have a world-class maniac staring down the lens. This story sells itself.

This article appeared in print with the headline "A great escape."

Film Details

The Imposter
Rated R · 95 min. · 2012
Official Site: imposterfilm.com
Director: Bart Layton
Producer: Dimitri Doganis
Cast: Frédéric Bourdin, Adam O'Brian, Carey Gibson, Anna Ruben, Beverly Dollarhide, Charlie Parker, Alan Teichman, Nancy Fisher, Cathy Dresbach and Bryan Gibson

Trailer


Now Playing

The Imposter is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Lurid and Trashy? Clint Eastwood is a true pioneer of cinema-in front of the camera and in the directors chair.For …

by jde on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

Americans are really good at watching movies and everyone knows that they spend a lot of money on watching them, …

by Anil Sharma on The Average American Sees Five Thousand Movies in a Lifetime. Half of Them Come Out This Week. (Film Review)

I read a couple of good reviews about this movie in Hungarian papers. Actually it could be my mother's and …

by Gabor Lukacs on Ferenc Török’s 1945 Is a Dark Fable and a History Lesson Wrapped in Fine Cinematic Storytelling (Film Review)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation