The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is the film most responsible for bringing director Raul Ruiz to international prominence. The intricate film is structured as an unfolding puzzle, a bafflingly complex mystery where the detectives use the techniques of art history. The film is narrated by an art collector and an unnamed interviewer who dissect a series of six 19th-century paintings. The collector argues that certain imperfections in the artwork -- errors in perspective, anachronistic objects, misplaced shadows -- are not in fact imperfections, but clues left by the artist. He feels these are keys to a larger secret, one related to a grand historical conspiracy. However, this theory presupposes the existence of a seventh painting, the crucial, missing link in the chain. The collector believes this painting has been stolen, but the interviewer claims it never existed. Ruiz transforms these academic discussions into cinema by exploring the riddle of the paintings from the inside. He re-creates each painting with live actors and real locations then views the scenes from different angles, presenting a visual equivalent to the spoken analysis, a meditation on history, art, and the problem of interpretation.
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