The Art of the Steal


Documentary cinema has a lot of stories about the art world. It’s not surprising, really. Readings or lectures about art can be tedious to the average viewer, and fiction film often has trouble jazzing up the subject, but the standard model of doc filmmaking is ideal for conveying facts and concepts while keeping the audience engaged. Still, such films usually struggle to attract an audience, and it’s not hard to figure out why — art is usually seen as a stodgy field, fit only for snobs. And given how deep the ties run between fine art and the whims of the upper class, this is not an entirely unreasonable stereotype. This makes it particularly funny when someone comes along to upset the fruit cart. Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman‘s new film, Art and Craft, demonstrates what happened when museums discovered one forger who only donated and never sold his fakes. In that spirit of rabble-rousing, here are a few more that come in a similar vein. These are films that refuse to play by the art world’s rules. In one way or another (and sometimes unintentionally!), they lay bare the eccentricities and hypocrisies that fuel this sheltered sphere of rich collectors and stodgy institutions. F for Fake (1974) One of Orson Welles‘s last projects, this freewheeling cinematic essay starts as an interrogation of famed forger Elmyr de Hory‘s career before spiraling off into various explorations of the nature of art and authenticity. Welles is keeping company with a host of other “fakers,” mainly his fellow actors […]


Raro Video

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Death Occurred Last Night A young woman has gone missing, and while that’s distressing enough for her father it’s made worse by the fact that she’s mentally challenged and has the awareness of a child. Her concerned father pressures the police to step up their search, but as he and the detectives narrow in on the truth it becomes clear that they may be too late. This dark, violent Italian thriller was a bit rough upon its release, and the years since haven’t made it any softer. Part procedural, part suspense, the film doesn’t shy away from the sex or violence and is most definitely not for the PC crowd. If the scene where good old dad helps his gorgeous adult daughter put on her bra doesn’t stop some people the idea of a handicapped woman being put to use as prostitute just might, but Duccio Tessari‘s film moves beyond its exploitation tease to become a solid adult thriller unafraid to head in some truly dark directions. Raro Video’s new Blu-ray isn’t loaded with extras, but the film looks and sounds fantastic. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet, interview, trailer]


Jay Baruchel and Kurt Russell in THE ART OF THE STEAL

If there’s a more infectiously affable and charismatic actor than Kurt Russell then I don’t know of him or her. Sure there are performers with more dramatic range, others that are more consistently hilarious, and still others who look better in women’s clothing, but for my money none of them set me as instantly at ease as Russell. It’s what makes his near six-year absence from movie screens (2011’s little-seen Touchback aside) that much more frustrating. And it’s what makes the new heist comedy, The Art of the Steal, that much more enjoyable. Crunch Calhoun (Russell) is one of the best wheelmen in the business, but when his latest score goes bad he winds up serving hard time in a Polish jail. It’s not that he got caught, it’s that his brother Nicky (Matt Dillon) sold him out to save his own butt. A few years later Crunch is a free man, breaking bones and bruising his body as an Evil Knievel knock-off taking dives for $800 a crash. His old team reassembles for a new heist, and while he’s no believer in the idea of “one last big score” he signs on hoping to make enough to retire.



It’s likely that all you need to know to be sold on writer/director Jonathan Sobol’s new film, The Art of the Steal, is that it stars Kurt Russell as a low-rent, karate-chopping motorcycle daredevil who sometimes uses his motorcycle skills to be the wheelman during high stakes heists. So, sort of like Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines, only hopefully we’ll get to watch the ridiculous motorcycle stuff for the whole movie this time. See? Everyone is sold already, and Russell isn’t even the only thing this movie has going for it. As much fun as he is to watch when he’s playing ridiculous characters like this, The Art of the Steal also gives you other fun stuff to look forward to, like Goon and This is the End star Jay Baruchel playing his awkward son, Matt Dillon playing his sleazy brother, Terence Stamp being all piercing and Terence Stampy, and a whole lot of jokes, fights, and heist film silliness to boot. Click through the link to check it all out.



Join us each week as Rob Hunter takes a look at new DVD releases and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which titles are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs. And remember, these listings and category placements are meant as informational conversation starters only. But you can still tell Hunter how wrong he is in the comment section below. This week sees only one major release in Clash Of the Titans alongside several lesser known titles like Artois the Goat, Ip Man, Operation: Endgame, The Snake, and more. See all of this week’s relevant DVD releases after the jump…



There is the belief that art can elude, confuse, and manipulate meaning just as readily as it can reveal truth and reality to us. There is the alternate belief, however, that the illusion of reality and truth manifested through art is its most deceptive function. There’s a lot to be said about this subject with respect to Banksy’s street art documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, and here are what amount to, for what its worth, my two cents.



‘The Art of the Steal,’ now in limited theatrical release and available on IFC On Demand, is a documentary with unusual villains: the Pew Charitable Trusts and the City of Philadelphia.

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published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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