Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hypothesis of The Stolen Painting

Posted on Thu, Sep 28, 2006 at 4:00 AM

Hypothesis of The Stolen Painting
Studio: Facets
WorkNameSort: Hypothesis of The Stolen Painting
Watching Raoul Ruiz's idiosyncratic puzzler Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting educes similarities to spending an hour with a learned art theorist: It's exhausting, difficult and fascinating. To find the secret behind a pilfered painting, a pedantic art collector (Jean Rougeul, 8 1/2) concludes that the stolen art is one in a series of seven seemingly unconnected works. The only way to link the pieces, he says, is to reconstruct each painting using real-life models and search for clues. (Jean Reno and Cahiers du Cinéma critic Jean Narboni are among the models.) In this provocative statement on self-reflexivity, the filmmaker's hypnotic camera glides gracefully across the chiaroscuro compositions, forever searching for an unidentifiable truth. A quality black-and-white transfer and enhanced subtitles bring out the clarity and nuance of Ruiz's cerebral mystery. Less successful is the bonus film attached to the Facets DVD: Ruiz's 1978 TV movie, The Suspended Vocation, an uneven and muddled indictment of Catholicism. A newly recorded 30-minute interview with Ruiz contextualizes the films as a major turning point in his career and includes humorous comments about the Cahiers critics he befriended in the 1970s.


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