In the Year of the Grifter
That “Fake it ‘til you make it” has become the unofficial motto of these United States isn’t an unexpected development—way back in 1857 Herman Melville’s satirical The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade proposed a vision of the Republic as a ship of fools, lured in by a shapeshifting flim-flam artist. America and the world have gotten older but no wiser, and yesteryear’s snake oil salesmen and false prophets seeking actual profits give way to a new breed of fakers, art world hustlers like Anna Delvey and born-rich real estate swindlers who turn a long history of bankruptcies into a campaign for public office. The real-world results aren’t anything to celebrate today, but cinema, based as it is on feats of audio-visual deceit, has long had a kind of love affair with fabulous frauds, and we’ve brought some of the rogues, rakes, mountebanks, and outright bastards together. It’s a special, and perhaps especially insightful, collection of movies—and that’s no lie.