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Guest Review: George On The Imposter


James A. George, Eyewear's film critic, weights in on The Imposter

The Imposter is a new documentary from Bart Layton about a young boy found in a phone box in Europe. Soon after, he is returned to his grieving family in Texas that lost him three years prior. A miracle, or too good to be true? The less known about this documentary the better, that is all you should know.

Even writing the words documentary to describe this film is a weird sensation. At points it is easy to forget you are watching a documentary at all, not only due to the shocking jolts and turns in the story that seem so unlikely you could be mistaken for thinking you were watching a hastily scribbled action movie. But due also to the creative cinematography. Far from recreating scenes the strange history in a crimewatch style, the scenes are dramatised with actors and shot to show the multiple point of views of the events as they unfold; be it the police, the family or the imposter.  Bart Layton and his action-movie editor toy with the idea of subjectivity through shifts in point of view visually and narratively. Many documentaries are simply voice over with archive footage and result in an ultimately informative yet not particularly filmic and rather lecturing, whereas the methods described before result in gripping cinema entertainment as well as a revelatory factual documentary.

The themes of manipulation, belief, truths and trust are not only embedded in the story and plot. Layton’s almost absent authorisation of the film, yet expert storytelling, manipulates the viewer and makes them question everyone presented to them as well as the viewers own thoughts. Information is trickled out craftily and different interviews juxtapose one another’s stories. By the time local Texan private detective gets involved, the whole thing becomes so wild, unpredictable and deceptive that it is as darkly funny as it is enjoyable.

In the tiny cinema I saw this in there was a mixture of dropped jaws, withheld sniggering and outright shrieking with words like “liar” or “nutcase” lingering around. It is without doubt one of the best films of the year and deserves all the worldwide praise it has been getting. While this review may seem rather vague (which it is vital to the true enjoyment of this film) I cannot make clear enough how fascinating, fulfilling and shocking this documentary is. See it in the cinema if you can, the visual construction definitely warrants it, as do the voices of others in the cinema. You may think you know what is coming, but you certainly do not.
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