Who gets to call it art? In late-19th century Bean Town, it was Isabella Stewart Gardner, a debutante who built a remarkable museum inside her home with the aide of her European representative and advisor, Bernard Berenson. The centerpiece of her collection was Vermeer’s stunning “The Concert,” stolen in 1990 along with 12 other priceless works—among them, two Rembrandts—that still remain at large. WASP movie specialists Blythe Danner and Campbell Scott bring Gardner and Berenson’s letter exchanges to life through breathy voiceover, a dubious choice which accounts for only a smidgen of Stolen‘s Discovery Channel intrigue. (Experts on Vermeer go on about the genius of “The Concert,” but all I could think about was whether Berenson was trying to mack on the plain-faced but bodacious-bodied Gardner from across the Atlantic.) In the present, renowned art detective Harold Smith, a victim of skin cancer with a prosthetic nose and bandages all over his body, tracks the elusive scent of Gardner’s paintings, which takes him all over the world and implicates the IRA: The organization is responsible for previously stealing other Vermeer works, and the 1990 robbery in Boston happened on—get this—St. Patrick’s Day! Rebecca Dreyfus’s doc suggests at any given point an episode of Unsolved Mysterious, or a glorified PowerPoint presentation—a pity, and a surprise, given that the director shares camera credit with none other than Albert Maysles. But it’s the content that counts here and it’s impossible to imagine Ron Howard’s upcoming The Da Vinci Code hawking a more convincing, unpretentious, less attention-grubbing mix of art-world glamour and eccentric detective-hunting. PBS sponsors will not be disappointed.
- International Film Circuit
- 84 min
- Rebecca Dreyfus
- Harold Smith, Blythe Danner, Campbell Scott
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