Independent Lens: Season 8, Episode 18

Stolen (20 Mar. 2007)

TV Episode  |  Unrated  |   |  Documentary
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 75 users   Metascore: 61/100
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In March of 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers gained entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston Massachusetts and successfully executed the largest art ... See full summary »


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Episode credited cast:
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself - Host
Harold Smith ...
Himself (as Harold J. Smith)


In March of 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers gained entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston Massachusetts and successfully executed the largest art heist in modern history. Among the thirteen priceless works stolen was Vermeer's "The Concert" one of only 35 of the masters surviving works. Not a single one of the works has been recovered. STOLEN is a full exploration of the Gardner theft, and the fascinating, disparate characters involved: from the 19th century Grand dame Isabella Gardner to a private detective obsessed with finding the art to a terrorist organization with a penchant for stealing Vermeers. Written by Anonymous

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20 March 2007 (USA)  »

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Box Office

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$6,250 (USA) (21 April 2006)


$289,773 (USA) (21 September 2012)

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Edited from Stolen (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

distracting camera-work, little new info
21 May 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Do these documentary filmmakers all go to the same film school? Every interview shot is guaranteed to be either too close to begin with, or to slowly and surely zoom in too close while the person is speaking. Instead of focusing on what the speakers are talking about, I'm counting nose hairs or contemplating various skin conditions. Sometimes for variety they start too-close and zoom out.

We see closeups of the back of Harold Smith's neck while he's taking the T or walking through South Station. Or endless closeups of his hands, his cheeks, his prosthetic nose. It's not just him--every speaker is treated the same way. What point are they trying to make with this investigation into everybody's skin pores? They're like frustrated dermatologists. The shots are so close you can't even see the speaker's entire face half the time. Why? Once you notice it you can't help but watch for it and sure enough, another steady zoom. Maybe it's fear of talking-head syndrome--they do it to inject a measure of (cheap) dynamics into an otherwise static shot of somebody talking. What a tedious technique!

As for the other aspects of the film, I don't know what Dreyfus would have done had she not found Smith to build her film around. Smith is a cool character but not much actually happens. We see him getting in and out of planes trains and taxicabs, and listening to various cranks and scam artists, and learn a little about Gardner herself. We see some scenes of Venice through the same off-balance zoom-in and zoom-out technique. None of this amounts to much. No time is spent describing the mechanics of the heist. Considering this was one of the great capers of the century, we learn very little about how it was actually pulled off. I guess because the documentary strives for something more than a mere exposition of the crime. Is this artistic license, or just laziness? Its her film, she gets to decide what to focus on. Seems to me though some of those pointless scenes of Smith getting out of taxis could have been replaced with a few minutes in the beginning, showing us how the thieves moved through the museum, dealt with the alarm system, and made their getaway.

This movie shares with The Giant Buddhas a lack of interest in the narrative, in favor of a tendency to meander and linger on irrelevancies.

To its credit the film does a good job of explaining, and showing Vermeer's appeal.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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