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Michel Deville is perhaps the most underrated French filmmaker alive today. His films are marked by a deft, intelligent style; the editing and transition scenes in his films is often stunning: dialogue scenes are always zippy and fresh, especially in La Lectrice (1988) and the superb, Death in a French Garden (1986).
On a Vole La Joconde, as the film is known in France (The Mona Lisa Has Been Stolen in English-speaking nations) is a light a breezy caper film in the best tradition of the subgenre, which was very popular in the late 50s and early 60s, with hits like Big Deal on Madonna Street and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) springing first to mind.
What makes the film so appealing is Chakiris' laconic, confident performance which sits well with the overall tone of the film; danger is never present, yet one is intrigued as to how and when the famous portrait will be stolen and who will finally get their hands on it. Slapstick abounds once things get going, but it never becomes overbearing.
Marina Vlady gives a coy but sexy performance and her rapport with Chakiris is delightful.
Even with fluff, Deville's style is invigorating and The Mona Lisa Has Been Stolen is a fun, sexy caper, beautifully shot in scope by Massimo Dallamano; this was his last film; he shot Leone's A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.
Available on DVD in the UK in anamorphic widescreen.
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