6 June 2014 | blanche-2
not very exciting
I don't know what it is, but I love movies about art theft and art fraud. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, I don't collect art, but this story of the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum robbery intrigued me.
It's been 24 years, and the stolen paintings, valued at something like $300 million, have never been returned. There has been conjecture that the IRA has them, and it was postulated that if Edward Kennedy (this is back in 2005 or so), very admired by the Irish, went to a particular senator with IRA sympathies and asked for their return, it would start a conversation. Evidently that didn't happen. Also, one of the gentlemen working on the case suddenly decided to stop talking about it, so the documentary really had nowhere to go.
The main focus is on Harold Smith, an insurance investigator who spent years, right up to his death, search for the paintings and following up leads. As a young man, Smith suffered from a dry skin condition and agreed to be part of an experimental treatment. Lanolin was put all over his body and then baked in, and he was exposed to ultraviolet light. He developed skin cancer, and along the way lost an eye, a lung, and had to wear a prosthetic nose.
When we see Smith in the documentary, he is an old man; he died not long after the documentary was completed. In reading the reviews here, some people seemed to find him repulsive and complained that the camera was on him too much. He was a human being like the rest of us. I think there is room in the world for people besides models, especially since this particular person had been working on a case since 1980 and filmmakers were doing a documentary about it.
This documentary isn't entirely successful - it's slow and it's too long. There definitely were some interesting sections, the information about the stolen art; information about the museum itself, and the fact that no art replaced the stolen art as Gardner's will ordered that the museum be left as she had put it together, with no art added.
The museum robbery is a fascinating story, but it's unresolved. When it's over, you really don't know who has the paintings and for what reason. If the paintings are ever returned, there perhaps may be an exciting story about how it came about.