Film review: The Imposter

Director: Bart Layton
Cast: Adam O'Brian, Anna Ruben, Cathy Dresbach, Alan Teichman, Ivan Villanueva, Maria Jesus Hoyos, Anton Marti, Amparo Fontanet, Ken Appledorn
Rating: (M)
5 stars (out of 5)

Anyone familiar with Errol Morris' documentary style, especially the use of dramatised re-enactments in The Thin Blue Line, will notice a wealth of similarities in Bart Layton's debut feature.

In a nutshell, The Imposter reveals a series of events that unfolded in 1997 when trickster Frederic Bourdin decided to impersonate Nicholas Barclay, a Texas teenager who had disappeared in 1994.

The fact a swarthy French-Algerian could dupe American authorities into believing that he was a blue-eyed all-American boy seems far too wacky to take seriously. That is, until Layton allows Bourdin to stare down the barrel and suck you into his strangely hypnotic vortex of lies, deception and unbelievable confidence.

Through cleverly edited interviews and creative use of actors to fill in the spaces, the juxtaposition between a shape-shifting Frenchman and his new American family is so unbelievably amusing that it would be easy to dismiss the film as a mockumentary, but that would be way too reductive.

With more twists and turns than a Top Gear challenge, The Imposter spans a hazy divide between serious investigation and character exploitation.

Fortunately, by not trying to answer every question raised, The Imposter leaves you feeling strangely satisfied yet thirsting to know more about the enigmatic Frederic Bourdin.

It's a fantastic piece of cinema.

Best thing: The interplay between the dramatised re-enactments and the cleverly selected interview grabs.

Worst thing: Nothing, this is as good as documentary story-telling gets.

See it with: Something to stifle the laughter.

By Mark Orton.