Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
One of the most prolific art forgers in US history, Mark Landis has duped over 40 American museums with an impressive array of ingeniously crafted fakes, ranging from 16th-century religious paintings to illustrations by Dr Seuss. For reasons that this film explores with delicacy and precision, Landis, long since diagnosed schizophrenic, has never made a cent from his nefarious pursuit. Rolling up at august institutions of art, culture and religion posing as a bereft relative or a Jesuit priest bearing inherited gifts, he’s been an honoured guest. Once discovered and widely reported, his ‘philanthropic binges’ (as he describes them) have proven horribly embarrassing to art world professionals – several of whom account for their gulling with a modicum of dignity in this film. But two of them appear permanently shaken. With no legal redress to alleviate their insecurity – giving away forged art is not a crime – their drive to curtail and contain him provides this documentary with a very suggestive counter-narrative. Sheepish, wry, his voice a whisper, his chit-chat a cut-and-paste of juicy lines from the classic movie channel, Landis may forever elude them.