We’re living in a golden age for documentary film, yet the term somehow feels too limiting to describe this dazzling piece of storytelling, which chronicles bizarre real-life events to richly dramatic, fiercely thought-provoking effect.
In 1994, the Barclay family of San Antonio, Texas were left distraught by the disappearance of 13-year-old Nicholas, but a phone call three years later would change their lives. Police in Spain had picked up a teenager answering to his name and description, found cowering in a telephone booth.
As the title suggests however, the plot was about to thicken… enter Frédéric Bourdin, a 20-something Frenchman with a troubled history and a record of manipulative behaviour. Director Bart Layton’s ability to visualise the interlocking, often contradictory testimonies offered by both parties creates a vivid filmic experience drawing on the language of film noir, such evident artifice brilliantly appropriate given the central theme of reality as a construct we can choose to believe or disbelieve. Mesmerising stuff.
The Imposter is released at the IFI and selected cinemas from 24 August 2012
(Notes by Trevor Johnston, supplied by IFI)