for some time i’ve wanted to add a background image to the vox vetus page. stormtrooper white is cool but no one realizes it’s stormtrooper white. the question then becomes what exactly should i put behind those latin letters? i need to add an image that defines my blog; assuming, that is, that the written content is coherent enough to fit into a pixelated reflection. and which is better… fitting into a jpeg or defying boundaries? actually, nerds and non-conformists, it’s fitting into a jpeg. you see, the picture reflects a structure of thought, not subject matter. this is not a section in the paper like finance (boring) or sports (awesome). this is the editorial section (blowhard), which is to say, content should derive from logic and clarity and a consistency of these honorable tropes.
all this to say that my newest copy of ‘science illustrated’ has sparked the ephiphanous answer: Rodin’s ‘the thinker’. it’s pretty famous, probably just behind Michelangelo’s ‘david’ in regards to naked men made of bronze. and it’s in the new ‘science illustratrated’ because it was grievously violated (a very scary thing for any naked man). this particular ‘thinker’, one of 20 original castings by the french sculptor, was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands. it was retrieved 2 days later, but not before the thieves tried to cut it into pieces and sell it for scrap metal. scrap metal! can you believe that?! how philistine. as the original name of the statue was ‘the poet’, an allusion to Dante of ‘inferno’ fame, one could suggest this particular ‘thinker’ survived the circle of hell reserved specifically for atheist art lovers. but who expected that particular circle would involve a band saw? i figured it would be ‘a clockwork orange’ type punishment where spiked pince-nez prevent guggenheim lovers from closing their eyes as they’re forced to watch ‘entrapment’ all day long. if anything could worsen separation from our dear Lord, that would be it. fortunately, said science article is actually about the remarkable restoration of ‘the thinker’ by manner of 3D imaging and replacement molds. hooray for scienc3!
but on the subject of the pilfered ‘thinker’, and having mentioned ‘entrapment’, let us consider the ouvre of art heist films. they’re a small bunch, but unique and worth some study. the most popular films of the genre are ‘entrapment’ and ‘the thomas crown affair’ remake, which are cheesy titillation for the middle-aged. each w a debonair thief on the loose and brassy gal in tow to barely fend off his advances. he’s plotting 2 heists, and she knows it, playing the matador to his toro until it suits her to prefer the goring. this is not a good start. these movies are popular, but i don’t like them. the end of ‘crown’ is slick but otherwise it’s silly, slow, and romantic in the same way as late night cinemax. instead, if you’re a brosnan fan like me, check out ‘the matador’ (natch), a great little hitman movie w him at the center of an existential crisis. and where ‘crown’ has a crass love plot, this hitman movie actually has 2 very sweet loves, one romantic and the other fraternal. as for ‘entrapment’… triple old man ugh. watch ‘from russia w love’ if want to see sean virile (and not pervy); or better yet, watch ‘the hunt for red october’ – cause it’s super bad ass. but let’s practice a little redemption! there are some good art heist movies, enough even to ransom this tiny little genre from a creepy old connery.
first off, the princess herself, grace kelly, who shines, quite literally, in the hitchcock classic ‘to catch a thief’. this is a nice little film, equal parts silly and fun while walking the line of the genre’s tropes. and while cary grant is probably too old for the exquisitely beautiful kelly, who of us can resist his gentleman’s charm? the plot is fairly simple, grant is an ex cat burglar, pardoned for his crimes because of his part in the french resistance, but an impostor has begun to mimic him and he must now ferret out the new thief. kelly happens to be the heiress of the biggest jewel on the riviera, drawing grant’s attention (not that it would take jewelry), and adventure and fireworks ensue. it’s not the match of hitchcock’s classics (veritgo, SxSW, etc), but it scores big for location and production value, as it was shot in monte carlo on cliff top and sea side. i need to watch the new collector’s edition of the film, as the horrific old film stock has been remastered and may now reveal the true brilliance of the locale. one wonders if shooting in the french riviera, and wearing the wardrobe of famed designer edith head, made an impact on kelly’s future decisions?
next on our list is ‘charade’, a film i like even more, cause it’s got some real bad guys in it. what it doesn’t have is a big heist moment, but i’m going to include it because it has a a very smart heist reveal. this is another grant project, but w audrey hepburn riding shotgun. this go around, grant is a little more rugged (if still too old for his new ingenue), hepburn more coy and conniving, and walter matthau and james coburn make things interesting as fairly menacing villains. what’s better, you can’t always tell if grant himself is on the up-and-up. none-the-less, he pulls hepburn along on the hunt for a rare treasure, hidden by her deceased husband, who was murdered after he stole it. when the treasure is finally revealed, it’s actually surprising (and just ‘art’ enough to include on this list), and as grant and hepburn try to retrieve it, taut and clever chase scenes occur, the kind inspired by hitchcock but unfortunately missing from ‘to catch a thief’. this makes the final balance of ‘charade’ very nice, with tension, mystery, romance, and a few bad buys biting it along the way. and lay off the glossy fairy tale ending, w out that it might not have been played on public television, and my teenage cable-less butt wouldn’t have seen it and be telling you about it now.
finally, and keeping audrey in tow, we have ‘how to steal a million’, a truly died in the wool art heist flick. here you’ll find a rich heiress, a practicing thief who falls for her, and a big museum heist. but ‘million’ is also a rom-com, and plays on the genre’s cliches. for instance, peter o’toole’s burglar needs a ride home when he’s grazed by a musket shot from hepburn after she catches him robbing her! of course, he also bums a cigarette on the ride home. the rest of this caper’s plot revolves around o’toole and hepburn’s budding romance as they plot to retrieve a fake statue that her father has passed off as real. to be honest, it was late and i fell asleep watching this movie. i was really tired. but it was good til i drifted off to middle earth, so it still stands far above ‘entrapment’ and ‘crown’.
so what have we learned about art heist movies?… rich girls (usually played by audrey hepburn) get into trouble, and then tantalize, toy w, and finally fall in love w the dangerous but inwardly tender thieves who come to their rescue. at the same time, there’s art on the loose and a big plan being made by the girl and the guy to lift it. the art heist flick sustains itself on a simple dynamic of plot mirroring romance, and i can live w that, especially if grace kelly is in the mix. what i find intriguing is that the blond hepburn, whose natural brassiness would make her the perfect matador, never played the part. but then again, i believe it would have ringed false for such an inevitable seduction to work on someone of her ‘no nonsense’ stance. some dames are just too smart. so props to classy katherine for truly declaring ‘no toro’! and don’t throw ‘philadelphia story’ at me. cary’s inevitable conquest of katherine is not sexual but marital; he wants to put a ring on her finger (a 2nd time!). in any case, it seems you need cary grant to pull your art heist film out of timid sexual cliche. unsurprising.
but what about my search for a background image that perfectly defines my blog and my thinking? the hunt for pixelated sublimity. well, it’s apropos that a magazine that intentionally combines 2 disparate forms, science and pictures, gave me the answer. but, having settled on ‘the thinker’, am i now suggesting that an iconic work of nude art, one that universally conjures up brilliance, is the right mascot for my mind? wow, that’s pompous, i must be a full of hot crap. actually, hold that thought. you see, it’s not ‘the thinker’ that perfectly defines my dilettante deduction.
it’s his naked butt.
a few post scripts:
‘the maltese falcon’, one of my all time favorite films, is almost identical in plot to ‘charade’. however, i just don’t see them in the same light. ‘charade’, which has been called ‘the best hitchcock movie hitchcock never made’, is a thriller w the character dynamics of the art heist film. grant, as the lead male, is full of chicanery and tricks just like a thief, even if he isn’t one; whereas bogart, in ‘falcon’, plays fall guy most of the way thru. besides that, ‘falcon’ is straight up noir: the wit is dark, the danger sinister not titillating, y las senoritas estan los toros.
‘ocean’s 12’ is technically about an art heist. and it’s a truly bad movie that doesn’t, in any way, fit the genre billing we’ve discussed. ‘hudson hawk’ is also about a museum robbery. it is, indubitably, one of the strangest films ever made. it fits into the genre of terry gilliam films, but not art heist films. i haven’t seen john woo’s ‘once a thief’, but i suspect there are flying doves in slo mo.
a very cool stormtrooper wallpaper. grace kelly – no explanation needed.