Chilean-born exile, now living in France, Raúl Ruiz’s opaque experimental film The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting was made for French television originally as a documentary to profile philosopher, writer and pornographer Pierre Klossowski, but then evolved into this curious collaboration about the meaning of art. What results is a unique occult whodunit. Its critical acclaim gave the filmmaker an international following.
A bumbling unnamed art collector (Jean Rougeul) guides us and an unseen offscreen interviewer around the works of a fictional middling 19th century painter named Frederic Tonnerre, located in a mansion, in an attempt to solve the mystery of a missing seventh painting. The search involves the sloppily made live reanactment of the compositions of each tableaux vivants (using real actors). The collector and interviewer argue over the deeper meanings of the paintings, which also relates to the creative film experience. The interpretations of each picture seems to be a big stretch as it relates the mythological subjects with today’s society. The collector believes these paintings are keys to a larger secret, one related to an historical scandal. This theory presupposes the existence of a seventh painting, the crucial missing link in the chain. The collector believes this painting has been stolen, but the interviewer claims it never existed. —Ozus’ World Movie Reviews
Chilean filmmaker Raúl, or Raoul, Ruiz (1941-2011) was one of the most exciting and innovative filmmakers to emerge from 1960s World Cinema, providing more intellectual fun and artistic experimentation, shot for shot, than any filmmaker since Jean-Luc Godard. A guerrilla who uncompromisingly assaulted the preconceptions of film art, this frightfully prolific figure – he made over 100 films in 40 years – did not adhere to any one style of filmmaking. He worked in 35mm, 16mm and video, for theatrical release and for European TV, and on documentary and fiction features and shorts. His career began in avant-garde theatre where, between 1956 and 1962, he wrote over 100 plays. Although he never directed any of these productions, he did dabble in TV and filmmaking in the early 1960s. In 1968, with the release of his first completed feature, the Cassavetes-like Tres tristes tigres (1968… read more
A mystery concocted around a mystery that arises when a painter fails to leave an auteurial stamp and so interpreters must create one for him. That, above all, may be the strange scandal of the art, that it should leave no easily discernible message among stylistically and textually different paintings. Hilarious, probing and, of course, beautiful.
A surprisingly playful film; when the first shot - a pulchritudinously soft, symmetrical, static image of a Parisian side street - appeared, I expected something along the lines of a traditional, fictitious mystery film, but then as I was introduced to a tug of war narrative and character behaviour between an unknown narrator, and the art collector, I found it homogeneous to the likes of Rivette and early Makavejev.
An interview with Christian Broutin, designer of the celebrated poster for Jules and Jim as well as 100 other posters.
Ruiz’s mystery masterpiece, “a sublime and intricate exposition on the reflexivity between art and life,” is (for now) watchable online.
Revised review of L’ hypothèse du tableau volé Raoul Ruiz, not long after fleeing his homeland of Chile after the coup by Pinochet, settled in France to continue his career as a… read review