Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Art of Crime: Stolen (2006)*****

Reviewed by Shu Zin

STOLEN is well-filmed, well-conceived, and wildly exciting. This is a first rate documentary about the theft of  13 masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner collection in Boston in 1990, and it follows the efforts of a career art crimes expert, Harold J Smith, in his efforts to recover the paintings. Smith is a miracle. He describes how his nose once fell off. (sic) (yes, sic!). 


A particularly excellent aspect of this documentary is that it shows us how various people relate to and articulate their passion for art (including, through letters, Isabella S Gardner herself, and interviews with a number of "retired" art thieves consulted) as much as telling a story of the theft and attempts to recover these priceless works. Some of these people are visibly moved nearly to tears as they discuss the loss of the exceptionally precious Vermeer, which most would agree is the most heartbreaking loss. Vermeer painted so few – art historians disagree about the exact number, but they all estimate around 35 paintings - and every one is a masterpiece of incalculable importance. 


There's humor here, a good score and a brisk pace, as leads are followed. This is a great suspense and crime story as well as an instructive and sensual exposure to a few of the greatest pictures ever painted. Some of the rest of them still reside at the Gardner Museum in Boston. There's a wonderful "extra" on the dvd, as well: an interview with the director, Rebecca Dreyfus, wherein she charmingly describes how Mr Smith came to play such a big role in her documentary. Highly recommended to anyone, absolutely anyone! 

Reviewed by Shu Zin

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