Director Bart Layton’s debut feature-length documentary, The Imposter, tells the story of Frédéric Bourdin, the mad Frenchman who at age 23 assumed the identity of a missing boy from San Antonio, Texas, in the late 1990s. In the beginning of the film, Layton paints a picture of “Bourdin the culprit,” using firsthand accounts of the crime from Bourdin, 35 at the time of filming, and presenting interviews with investigators in charge of the case. The film switches gears in the second half, however, with home-movie footage of Bourdin arriving in the U.S. in the guise of Nicholas Barclay, who’d gone missing at age 13 three years prior. Suddenly, we see a somewhat victimized young man who’s shocked to see his actions have caused far more trouble than he’d imagined. Through compelling interview footage and dark dramatizations, The Imposter interweaves reality and re-enactment to breathe chilly life into Bourdin’s account. The execution is stark, using a palette of somber brown and blue tones to paint a complex, twisted world that Layton manages to make accessible, presenting facts without exploiting them.
Bart Layton's debut feature-length doc tells the story of Frédéric Bourdin, the mad Frenchman who at age 23 assumed the identity of a missing boy from San Antonio, Texas, in the late 1990s.
City Paper Grade: B+
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