Crime can take some fascinating turns…
While The Painter And The Thief has got a really fascinating core to it all, you just can’t help but wonder if this is a put on or something that actually happened as it all plays just a little too slight for the viewer to really be able to get a grasp on what they are seeing.
Desperate for answers about the theft of her 2 paintings, a Czech artist seeks out and befriends the career criminal who stole them. After inviting her thief to sit for a portrait, the two form an improbable relationship and an inextricable bond that will forever link these lonely souls.
In many ways you have to look past the events of the film and really focus and bear down on the subjects on display here in The Painter And The Thief. While it’s being labeled as a documentary, I honestly don’t know if it is but it is a unique portrait into the fragility of the human soul.
To his credit, director Benjamin Ree really takes the standard convention and forms of the documentary film and turns those on their head having everything play out in a very free form fashion. Nothing in this narrative really plays to convention, it’s not so much about the crime or even the artist in many ways but rather we get this portrait of these two distinctly broken people and their subsequent interactions that form the entire experience of the film. He lays out parallels between the obsession of the artist as well as issues around addiction and the complexity of human relationships that often slap us in the face without any rhyme or reason why.
It’s odd that we are dealing with a story where we get so incredibly invested in the humanity of the subjects that are being put on screen without caring all that much about the conceit in the story that actually brought them together.
Ree challenges the form of storytelling itself and subverts the audience’s view that is akin to rubbing Vaseline all over a window. You can still see inside through it, but you know that everything has been shifted out of focus to make you question WHAT is actually going on in the first place.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing about The Painter And The Thief that’s easy; it’s actually a little maddening at times. However it’s this challenging of the documentary narrative form and these uniquely compelling subjects that actually make this film something you just might want to watch again and again no matter what you end up calling it.
Peeling back this cinematic onion will take time and give you just as many more questions as it does answers because like any genuinely memorable piece of art, the fascination of it is in its flaws, just like the human experience.