Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{The Imposter screens at SIFF Cinema Uptown starting today, Friday, 8/10, through Thursday, 8/16}

By all accounts, Direct Bart Layton's documentary The Imposter is so crazy, you have to see it to believe it. And those accounts aren't wrong. I agree, with enthusiasm, that this is possibly the craziest documentary I've ever seen.

A 13-year-old boy disappears from San Antonio, TX, and just a little over 3 years later, he's found in Spain. Sounds too good to be true, right? Of course. But somehow, a 23-year-old French-Algerian con man named Frederic Bourdin convinces the parents, the police, the judge assigned to his case, and everyone else who comes in contact with him that he's an American-born 16-year-old boy who's been kidnapped and held for three years as a sex slave. He escaped, and he's ready to come home.

The reenactments are starkly dramatic and cinematically stunning, but the real meat of this film is the up-close-and-personal time spent with Bourdin on screen. I don't think I've ever seen a movie before where the con man explains exactly HOW he conned someone, but goodgod it's fascinating. Bourdin's vulnerability and desperation at wanting to be loved, to belong to anyone, anywhere, is so heartbreaking, you can almost forgive him for lying.

And then there's even more mystery and madness to this story…and as it unfolds, the last third is almost too excruciating to watch.

The Imposter is so impossible to believe that it seems like a scripted trick (though not in an obvious Catfish-like way). HOW is this grown man, with an accent, who doesn't even remotely look like this missing kid, HOW does he convince even close family members that he is their missing, traumatized, teen brother and son? That's what makes it so damn engaging and unforgettable. It's definitely a film you'll spend a long time thinking about, and I recommend getting out to SIFF this weekend to see it.