Monday 20 August 2012

The Imposter

You know me, I'm not a massive fan of documentaries. Sometimes I actually fall asleep in the middle of saying the word "documentary". There are so few documentaries that contain car chases, explosions, robots or aliens that I often wonder what the point of them is at all. That said, The Imposter is a documentary and it's completely brilliant, so what do I know? Very little, that's what.

Knowing very little (SEAMLESS SEGUE ALERT) is a key theme in The Imposter. When a blond, blue-eyed, 13-year-old Texan boy goes missing and turns up nearly four years later in Spain with dark hair, brown eyes, a French accent, a completely different personality and the body of a grown man, it seems fair to assume that it might not be the same person. Yet the missing boy's family take this man into their home without hesitation. Why? Are they stupid? And what's in it for him? We don't know. Nor do the FBI, nor a local private investigator with a fetish for ears. But we're all absolutely desperate to find out, and it's this mystery that makes The Imposter so intriguing and gripping.

Director Bart Layton, in his first feature documentary, proves to be as much a manipulator as the titular fibmonger. In fact almost everyone in the film is manipulating or being manipulated in some way or other, and Layton's methods are as canny as any of them. Reconstructions are stylishly presented, but always as the point of view of one of the "characters" rather than in an overtly objective way, making it impossible to know who to trust. Secrets pile up on top of each other like a car crash, suspicions and assumptions lead to dead ends and shocking truths, and a sinister mood pervades the whole piece so completely that you start to wonder if any of it is true at all.

Far more successful than 2010's similarly-intriguing but ultimately disappointing Catfish, and with Hitchcockian twists throwing everything into question right up to the final frame, The Imposter will have you analysing your own conclusions long after it's finished, and that's worth at least an exploding alien or two in my book.

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