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Raúl Ruiz's "Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting" (1979)

Ruiz's mystery masterpiece, "a sublime and intricate exposition on the reflexivity between art and life," is (for now) watchable online.
Daniel Kasman

"Inspired by the idiosyncratic personality of author, theorist, and artist Pierre Klossowski whose densely cerebral erotic fiction was influenced by such notorious literary figures as the Marquis de Sade and the excommunicated surrealist Georges Bataille, as well as Klossowski's final novel La BaphometThe Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is an indelibly haunting, endlessly fascinating, and maddeningly abstruse composition on Pirandellian ambiguity and the inherent subjectivity of perspective. Raoul Ruiz's ingenious use of baroque, compositional tableaux vivants that intrinsically meld static art and corporeal physicality creates a blurred delineation between reality and fiction that, in turn, conflates the multi-layered existential relativity between subject and viewer, operating as both an aesthetic evaluation of the paintings and as a psychological portrait of the eccentric logic behind the conspiracy-obsessed collector. (Note a similar narrative permutation in Ruiz's surreal whimsical fable, Love Torn in Dream.) Ruiz further fuses art and reality by visually creating an equally ominous atmosphere from the perspective of the collector (his perception of the existence of the covert medieval fraternity of the Order of the Knights Templar that was denounced during the Inquisition for charges of occultism and demonology) and the audience (the cognitive aberration implicit in the collector's knowledgeable and articulate, but monomaniacal hypothesis) that is also manifested through the exquisitely formalized chiaroscuro lighting of both the collector's residence and the tableaux vivants. Ostensibly presented through the conventional narrative framework of a complexly interwoven mystery, the film evolves into a sublime and intricate exposition on the reflexivity between art and life, the indefinable essence of artistic creativity, and the inexactness of personal interpretation."

—Acquarello, Strictly Film School

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