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453 Ratings

The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting

L'hypothèse du tableau volé

Directed by Raúl Ruiz
France, 1978


Two narrators, one seen and one unseen, discuss possible connections between a series of paintings. The on-screen narrator walks through three-dimensional reproductions of each painting, featuring real people, sometimes moving, in an effort to explain the series’ significance.

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The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting Directed by Raúl Ruiz

Critics reviews

Among the earlier titles Ruiz made in his adopted country, The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting wryly combines connoisseurship and demon-worshipping cults… after having spent an hour expounding on his conjectures, the collector delivers this imperative: “Let us forget. Let us allow the paintings to vanish.” The conclusion is typical Ruizian mischief, in which interpretation and the imposition of meaning are a fool’s errand.
December 14, 2016
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Any film critic determined to impose a singular interpretation on Ruiz’s varied enigmatic forays should look closely at The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1978), the artist’s good-natured jab at such efforts. The film is a subtly mischievous meditation—in the spirit of Klossowski—on a series of canvases by nineteenth-century painter Frédéric Tonnerre, whose owner guides us through tableaux vivants in search of the missing link in the series, the so-called stolen painting,
November 29, 2016
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Ruiz moves rather systematically through different modes of interpretation, while cunningly suggesting there is a progression from tableau to tableau which will eventually establish a coherent whole. Symbolic, allegorical, mystical and historical readings follow each other not in pursuit of a final truth, but rather to demonstrate, in the manner of practical criticism and close reading, the range of Russian formalist criteria of pertinence, signification and meaning.
December 01, 1984
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