On Saint Patrick's Day in 1990, two men dressed as police
officers entered the famed Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in
Boston, overpowered the guards, and made off with more than a
dozen priceless art treasures, including a Vermeer and three
Rembrandts. The items remain missing to this day. Filmmaker
Rebecca Dreyfus decided to make a documentary about the theft
and some of the leads that have emerged in the past decade and
a half.

She has made a few intriguing choices in her approach to
the story. Actors Blythe Danner and Campbell Scott read letters
from Mrs. Gardner and her art dealer Bernard Berenson on the
soundtrack, which help to establish the historical context for how
some of the missing paintings were acquired (especially Vermeer's
"The Concert").

Indeed, although one of the Rembrandts is a magnificent
piece, it is the Vermeer that has caused the most consternation
within the art world, mostly because there are only about 35
extant works by that artist in the world. So Dreyfus interviews
Vermeer biographer Anthony Bailey as well as author Tracey
Chevalier, who wrote the novel
GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING,
about a famous portrait by the artist that was made into a feature
film.

But the most interesting and intriguing character in
STOLEN
is Harold Smith, a former military man who spent his life tracking
down missing and purloined art work. Smith, who suffered from
skin cancer agreed to participate in the project in part because he
hoped the renewed interest in the Gardner Museum theft might yield
some usable leads.

Smith's presence elevates the movie a bit, in part because he
is such a colorful character. (If he had been a fictional creation, one
might not believe in him.) But in the end, the various leads don't
go anywhere. The filmmakers (who included Albert Maysles as
cinematographer) do not have a conclusion to their movie, since
the artwork remains missing.

Some enterprising movie maker or television producer
should obtain the rights to Smith's life story. That would make
for a crackling good movie or TV series. Until then,
STOLEN offers
tantalizing glimpses at the behind-the-scenes attempts to locate
missing works of art.


               Rating:                 C+
               MPAA Rating:         NONE
               Running time:        90 mins.
Stolen
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.