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The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting / The Suspended Vacation
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2006
Format: DVD
This movie was (at least initially) inspired by Pierre Klossowski's novel The Baphomet, and was co-written by him. Klossowski, besides being the older brother of the painter Balthus, is also the author of a study of Nietzsche's thought entitled Nietzsche And The Vicious Circle; which is a study of perhaps his strangest idea, the eternal return. As The Baphomet is a novel based on principles of the eternal return, so is this movie. It is a mystery of sorts masquerading as a pseudo-documentary on an unknown (fictional) painter. All the surviving works by this painter are linked together into an enigmatic narrative made even more elusive by the absence of the one painting which is the key to the narrative circle (actually, any of the paintings, if missing, would've also been the missing key). The film is largely composed of live model reproductions of the paintings, and as the film progresses the actors within the paintings begin to move. The content of the missing painting is hypothesized by the convergence of the narratives extrapolated from the paintings on either side of it; but even the sequence of the paintings is hypothetical. It is a real head-piece, very tightly constructed - a baffling thought provoking gem.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
During the decade of the seventies, two brilliant Chilean filmmakers made the world turns around the attention about them. Raoul Ruiz and Alexander Jodorowsky, this last one decided to risk by surrealistic universes while Ruiz remained as creator of hallucinating atmospheres.

I would not hesitate to state Raoul Ruiz meant for the cinema what Garcia Marquez in literature. His portentous imagination at the moment to present us his artistic proposals and convictions, with works that always challenge even the most exigent of the spectators, hovered by a nocturnal poetry and admirable visual metaphors.

This film is one the most representative, imaginative and dazzling ones of the seventies, who according Raoul Ruiz' words is. "a fiction about theory". All begins when a pompous art collector proposes a new history of western based on a mesmerizing gallery of "living images" created by a forgotten artist.

So, when our hard collector begins to drone away about aspects of his collection, the human figures smirk and fidget, introducing the spectator in another level of narrative proposal.

A brilliant exercise of imagination and supreme good taste that brings us close to another two related films. Basil Dearden' s "Dead of night", 1945 and Richard Rush's "The stunt man" , 1980.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 27, 2009
Format: DVD
L'Hypothèse du tableau volé/THE HYPOTHESIS OF THE STOLEN PAINTING (1979) begins in the courtyard of an old, three-story Parisian apartment building. Inside, we meet The Collector, an elderly man who has apparently devoted his life to the study of the six known existing paints of an obscure Impressionist-era painter, Tonnerre. A narrator recites various epigrams about art and painting, and then engages in a dialogue with The Collector, who describes the paintings to us, shows them to us, tells us a little bit about the painter and the scandal that brought him down, and then tells us he's going to show us something....

As he walks through a doorway, we enter another world, or worlds, or perhaps to stretch to the limits, other possible worlds. The Collector shows us through his apparently limitless house, including a large yard full of trees with a hill; within these confines are the 6 paintings come to life, or half-way to life as he walks us through various tableaux and describes to us the possible meanings of each painting, of the work as a whole, of a whole secret history behind the paintings, the scandal, the people in the paintings, the novel that may have inspired the paintings. And so on, and so on. Every room, every description, leads us deeper into a labyrinth, and all the while The Collector and The Narrator engage in their separate monologues, very occasionally verging into dialogue, but mostly staying separate and different.

I watched this a second time, so bizarre and powerful and indescribable it was, and so challenging to think or write about. If I have a guess as to what it all adds up to, it would be a sly satire of the whole nature of artistic interpretation. An indicator might be found in two of the most amusing and inexplicable scenes are those in which The Collector poses some sexless plastic figurines -- in the second of them, he also looks at photos taken of the figurines that mirror the poses in the paintings -- then he strides through his collection, which is now partially composed of life-size versions of the figures. If we think too much about it and don't just enjoy it, it all becomes just faceless plastic....

Whether I've come to any definite conclusions about HYPOTHESIS or not, I can say definitely that outside of the early (and contemporaneous) works of Peter Greenaway like A WALK THROUGH H, I've rarely been so enthralled by something so deep, so serious, so dense....and at heart, so mischievous and fun.

I found "La Vocation suspendue"/SUSPENDED VOCATION (1978), the earliest feature from Ruiz that I've seen thus far, which is included on this Blaq Out/Facets disc, very difficult and at times completely incomprehensible -- I really think one has to have some background in or knowledge of Catholicism to fully appreciate it, and clearly though the visual aspects of the film are important, the religious themes are at the heart of it; it is unquestionably a film about something, a film that is dealing intellectually with a subject, but in an oblique enough way that if you start out more or less at ground zero (as I did) it will be hard to take anything away. The black and white photography elements (courtesy of one of the world's greatest cinematographers, Sacha Vierny, in his first collaboration with Ruiz) were quite striking though, and at times it gave off a very Bressonian feel.

Both features were based on novels by Pierre Klossowski, who seems worth looking into for sure. The two are also available with THREE CROWNS OF THE SAILOR on a 2-disc edition.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
I originally watched this movie because I'd read in an Italian trade paper that Arthur Brand had contributed to, or possibly even written a bulk of, the screenplay. But this is not the case. It's actually by Raoul Ruiz, and from the documentation included with the video edition it's uncertain whether Brand had anything to do with the making of it. Brand IS interested in the kinds of site-specific artworks that clearly fascinate Ruiz, and it's possible that Brand's commentaries on installations formed an inspiration for the film, but none of this is even hinted at in the secondary materials. Yes, Ruiz properly belongs to that family of poets, Borges and Pessoa included, who are obsessed by the very notion of commentary. But the connection between Brand and Ruiz is even closer. I hardly want to start a dispute, but The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is structured through a dramatization of the gulf that separates the work of art from its perception (reception?) in the eyes of the critic or viewer--for any knowledgeable reader, this is vintage Brand. And the scene in which the priest confesses to the youthful sinner is hardly to be questioned. Whatever the relationship (Brand WAS devoted to the movies), I would highly recommend any film by Ruiz, especially this one. I'd also recommend his tiny book on cinema, which might only be available in a European edition.
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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
I can't explain what this movie does to me without sounding like a fool, I can't explain what I think it means without sounding like a pompous ass, and I can't explain the plot of it without sounding like a bore. I can tell you that I love this film. You might hate it, but at least you'll give it a chance, right?
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (Raoul Ruiz, 1979)

Raoul Ruiz' The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is one of those movies that you hear critics and film snobs going on endlessly about, and yet one that very few people who are not critics or film snobs have actually seen. I have now seen it, and I have discovered why: those critics and film snobs are blowing smoke. Yes, it's all quite pretty, but at its heart, The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is a one-trick pony that strives for a depth it never manages to achieve.

The plot, what little there is of it, centers on two narrators, one unseen and one seen, the latter known as The Collector (8 ½'s Jean Rougeul), discussing a series of six (or is it seven?) paintings that caused a stir back in the day. As they discuss each, it becomes a three-dimensional tableau, through which the Collector walks as the two discuss the paintings. The more they discuss, the more it seems as if the old heresy mirrors a recent political crime.

It really should be as good as everyone says. I adore two-person films (there are many more actors in the movie, but all of them are tableau figures), and a two-person film where one is never on camera? Brilliant! And yet, it never caught me the way it seems to have caught so many other people. Yes, it's all quite beautifully shot (in black and white), and there are some truly arresting scenes. What never comes together for me is the political aspect of the film. It's obviously there, but it's neither buried enough to be the subtle dark thread running through the film that Ruiz, I think, was aiming for, nor prominent enough to be in your face. It's just sort of there, contributing little at times, none the rest.

I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, but if you're in the mood for something that's exceptionally well-shot but kind of brainless, this is perfect. ** ½
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
Format: DVD
Having read during many years about how great this film was, how it established Ruiz among the french critics, when I finally watched it about a year ago, I found it pretty disappointing (but then, I guess my expectations were sky-high). Shot in saturated black and white, this deliberately cerebral film (made for TV, and mercifully, only an hour long) is told in the form of a conversation between an art connoisseur and an off-screen narrator as they ponder through a series of paintings (which are shown in the style of tableaux vivants) and try to find if they hold some clues about a hidden political crime. Borgesian is a word I read a lot in reviews about this movie, but I would say almost any Borges story is more interesting than this film.

I haven't seen the second film in this DVD (The Suspended Vocation, not Vacation), but I have read the original book by Pierre Klossowski. This disquisition about catholicism is almost unreadable, it's the sort of thing that gave the french avant garde a bad name. My guess is that the film must almost certainly be an improvement on the book.

I have to say, finally, that Ruiz has proven in other movies to be a genuinely capable and original director (see, for example, the nifty Time Regained, based on Proust's book).
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