(Please forgive me if I repeat information that is common knowledge.)
First, my TV is a piece of junk - an RCA XL100 that I bought about three years ago - I can't wait until I can afford to get a better one. I have measured the length and width of all three F for Fakes during playback, and the only thing I can tell you is that the Japanese disc is closer to Widescreen than the Brazillian disc and the Criterion LD, which are barely Widescreen at all (the ARs for those two are nearly identical). Given the curvature of my television tube, the Japanese disc is (according to my calculations) somewhere between 1.5:1 and 1.6:1, where the other two are closer to 1.4:1. This is obviously a problem with my hardware, because the Criterion sleeve tells me that the LD presents the film in 1.66:1. Hmm!
In short, better stick with Jeff's measurements on this site.
Onto the discs, in order of my preference:
1) The Japanese F for Fake [89min] - There appears to be some very, very slight cropping of the image on the top and bottom. On the first title card, for example, the French copyright blurb is right up against the bottom edge of the letterbox frame. This, plus Jeff's analysis, leads me to believe that the Japanese disc is incorrectly framed, but not too badly. (It could be worse, a lot worse - see Winstar's DVD for The Puppetmaster, which takes a Widescreen film and crops it to full-frame.) I wouldn't DREAM of saying that the incorrect framing is no big deal - of course it's a big deal, it's a Welles film - only that it isn't an outrageous blunder, and it doesn't bother me while I watch the film.
Aside from that gaff, this is the best-looking version of the film that I've seen. As I stated below, the image quality is very pleasing - sharp but not over-defined, deep blacks and good contrasts. Whether or not the DVD is "faithful" to a 35-millimeter print, I couldn't tell you.
Extras are few - production notes and cast/crew bios in Japanese, cute interactive menus, and the option for Japanese subtitles (which are removable).
2) The Criterion F for Fake [85min] - I sincerely hope that Criterion (which is owned by Home Vision Entertainment, the same company that has the VHS version of the movie in their catalog) releases the film on DVD, because there are a few things that make the laserdisc special. First and foremost, Criterion triest their best to present each of their films as correctly as possible, without over-tweaking the transfers, oversharpening the image, and generally making the picture look computer-enhanced. (See the too-bright, too-clean and shiny Citizen Kane disc as an example of overzealous DVD authoring.) In short, while seeing a film on video is not the same as seeing a film projected in its original format, Criterion tries to get us as close to it as possible in a home environment. SECOND, the LD contains the 9-minute F for Fake trailer, which can be considered a Welles film in itself, not just because it uses footage not found in the actual feature, but because it was created by Welles (and Mr. Graver), and as such, is a unique item in his filmography that warrants unique consideration. Whether you think of it as a short, or, as Rosenbaum defines it, an essay, it's a Welles film.
Disadvantages to the laserdisc are few - it's a flipper, so even if you have a 919, there'll be a break in the film. Also, and this seems to be the case with most laserdiscs, there's something curious about the image during playback. It's not blurry or washed out or displeasing in any way - I can hardly put my finger on it, except to say that it looks "fragile." Laserdics don't seem to have the jaw-dropping image clarity you get with the very best DVDs - the pictures of F for Fake on the Japanese disc seem more "there," if that makes any sense. LD picture quality is, at its best, always superior to VHS, but the best DVD is superior to laserdisc.
3) The Brazillian F for Fake [86min] - Okay, I'm going to tell you right off - don't buy this disc. It's not worth the bother.
When the title came up, I was actually horrified. I flinched - it seemed to be creeping around in the darkness, the vomit blue title card bathed in mud, alerting me immediately that I needed to toy with the controls in order to get a pic quality that was remotely acceptable. Having done so, it still looked awful. I think this can be blamed on a sub-par print, scratchy and dirty and a bit washed out, most of all blurry. The sharpness of the Jap DVD and the Criterion LD are absent.
A shame, since it looks like the Brazillian producer put a bit of time into the thing - it doesn't look like a hack job. The menus are nice (uses the same clip from Legrand's score as the Jap DVD), and the packaging is of professional quality. There aren't any special features except for a short bio and incomplete filmography for OW.
The only redeeming facets of the Brazillian disc are the aspect ratio, which looks to be the same as the Criterion edition, and the English subtitles, which one may find a use for during some of Elmyr de Hory's scenes. Other than that, there's no reason to get this edition. (The seller appears to have a few left, which you can bid for on eBay or buy from his web site for $34.95 USD plus $6 for shipping from Sao Paulo.)
Finally, there is a discrepancy between the listed running times, as stated above. I haven't yet discovered why.
If anyone has any questions, or would like any screen shots from the Brazillian disc, or scans from the cover, give me a holler.
Greetings - nice web site.
Has anyone been able to compare the two DVD releases of F for Fake? There's this one:
eBay auction (from Brazil)
And there's a Japanese one:
Not much known about either, except that the Jap disc is 16x9 and may or may not have removable subtitles, whilst the Brazillian disc - the seller puts a new one up whenever he sells the old one, meaning he has a steady supply - has removable subtitles but is of an unknown OAR.
Anybody find anything further?