Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Steal a Million (1966)



“It's National Crime Prevention Week. Take a burglar to dinner.” 

            I like to think that if I was smart enough, sneaky enough, and ballsy enough I could be an art thief. So much art in the world is already stolen. Hell, the Metropolitan Museum of Art their entire Cypriotic collection is stolen and so are the friezes and statues of the Parthenon in the British Museum (the artifacts were taken by archaeologist before there were laws governing archaeology so technically they are stolen from what I understand). I would like to be like Parker and Sophie from the show Leverage who are both art thieves. Parker is a cat thief she knows how to bypass all kinds of security and break into places; I think I would enjoy being like her.
            If it had not been for my love of art (I have a degree in Art History)or watched Leverage there is no way I would have watched How to Steal a Million. I am not a big fan of Audrey Hepburn but I have already tortured myself with quite a number of her films so what was one more. I was surprised I actually liked sitting through the film. It helped that Peter O’Toole was outrageously handsome.
            A man named Charles Bonnett has just sold a Cezanne painting for a great amount of money at auction. The sale generated a great deal of publicity. The only thing that worries Bonnett and his daughter Nicole (Hepburn) is that the painting is a fake. Bonnett is a master forger. Nicole and her father heard and see police cars coming to their house. She thinks the police are after her father when in fact they are just escorting museum personnel who are there to collect a statue for their latest exhibition. The statue, the Cellini Venus, is supposed to have been sculpted by an Italian sculpture during the Renaissance when in fact it was sculpted by Nicole’s grandfather and the model her grandmother. Nicole tries everything she can to get the statue away from her father before he can let the officials take the statue to the museum. She even goes so far has to try and break it a few times.
            That night, while Bonnett is at the grand opening of the exhibit, Nicole hears someone breaking into the house. She goes downstairs to find a man (Peter O’Toole) stealing the Van Gogh painting on the wall. He says he thought she would be at the opening. Nicole grabs an antique gun from the wall and threatens to shoot him although she has no intentions of really shooting him just scare him. Unfortunately the gun goes off knocking Nicole to the floor and shooting the man in the arm. In the kitchen she puts a bandage on his arm. He says he is too weak to get back to his hotel she needs to drive him. Nicole is not happy with the idea but does so because if she tells on him she will expose her father. On the way to the hotel he tells her his name is Simon Dermott and that he is a society thief. In reality Simon is actually an art detective. He has been hired to look into Bonnett as a forger selling his art works for a great amount of money.
            Bonnett has made the mistake of signing an insurance document for the museum worth a million dollars. This document states that in order for the statue to be insured a specialist has to come in and validate that it is real by dating it. If it is tested they will automatically know the stone is not as old as they are claiming it to be. Nicole comes up with the idea to steal the statue without her father knowing. She goes to Simon to enlist his help. Simon of course says yes and comes up with a plan.
            Through a great plan and hilarious circumstances Nicole and Simon are able to steal the statue from the museum. Simon tells Nicole who he really is but that he will not be arresting her since the statue was a fake and was given to a crazy American man who was willing to do anything for it.
            Audrey Hepburn actually did not annoy me in this film. There is something about her that annoys me in some her films but I thought she was very good here. I could have been pleasantly distracted by her costumes that were designed by Givenchy. I loved all her clothes they were so chic.This was the first time I have ever seen Peter O’Toole in a film. I liked him a lot he was a very good actor. His eyes were gorgeous I could not stop staring at them!! Charles Boyer makes an appearance in the film. He is only I believe in one scene. I knew it was him before the camera showed his face, I would know his accent anywhere. Eli Wallach plays the guy who gets the statue at the end. His character Davis Leland was annoying. I know he was essential to the ending but the film could have done without him I thought… which could be due to me not really caring too much about Wallach as an actor.
            How to Steal a Million is a little long and got a little boring during the heist but for the most part it is fun to sit through.
            If you are wondering what I would steal if I was an art thief I would steal Madame X by John Singer Sargent in the Metropolitan Museum. That is my favorite painting. I would also steal Sargent’s copy of the painting from the Tate Britan as well a ton of Edward Steichen’s prints.