Today: February 27, 2024

The Imposter DVD

The Imposter, in any other hands, would not be a documentary.

The Imposter, in any other
hands, would not be a documentary.
It would
be a film of the week, a footnote in the genre of ‘based on actual events’
dramas which are hard to care about due to the sheer volume of such
things. But in director Bart Layton’s hands it is a riveting
documentary, a parable and mystery so haunting as to send genuine chills down
the spine.

1994 Nicolas Barclay, a 13 year-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy living in San
Antonio, Texas, went missing. With
his case seemingly closed without conclusion the door was left ajar for Frederic Bourdin; a 23-year-old, dark-haired,
brown-eyed man living in Spain, to make his claim to be Nicolas. Somehow convincing both Nicolas’ family
and the authorities he was the missing boy, Bourdin found himself living with a
family he didn’t know in a country he’d never been to. But as the story of The Imposter
unravels it becomes clear Bourdin is not the only person under suspicion of not
being what they claim.

do documentaries instil such guile and atmosphere. From its rain-soaked opening re-enactment The Imposter is
more than a recount of the story surrounding Bourdin’s infiltration of the
Barclay family. It is a sophisticated
dissection of events seen through the eyes of one of the most fascinating
anti-heroes to grace the screen since Christian
’s Patrick Bateman in American

is charming, he’s funny, he’s supremely inventive and without doubt a
pathological liar and sociopath.
And yet, throughout the film, he transfixes you. Layton never paints him in a particular
light; he lets Bourdin do the talking, almost entirely. “For as long as I can
remember I wanted to be someone else, someone who was acceptable.” By the
climax of The Imposter it will be clear Frederic Bourdin is neither acceptable
or someone else but a person who holds the attention to such extent as to be
more than believable in his ability to infiltrate and lie his way into any given

Bourdin, Layton is a master story-teller, able to immerse you in the characters
and worlds they inhabit to such an extent as to frequently force you to forget
that this is a documentary, such is the level of access afforded to us. There is more than a hint of pulp-ish
grit about the way Layton constructs the tale, cutting to all involved for a
response to the obvious lies that crop up. By the time curmudgeonly, private investigator Charlie
Parker turns up, The Imposter could easily be a nourish thriller from the pen
of a Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy. It twists and turns, spinning you round before pulling the
carpet from beneath your feet and never once asking you to suspend

the story of The Imposter gradually and grippingly pulls into focus it becomes
clear that nothing is what it seems and the web of lies constructed by all
involved are so intricate and mind-blowing as to prove, once and for all, that
reality is undoubtedly stranger than fiction. Suffice to say The Imposter is a film so haunting as to
warrant repeat viewing to truly appreciate the levels of deceit on offer but
also Layton’s stunning use of narrative structure. If only more filmic output had this level of intelligent
story telling.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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