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The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting

A Feature film by Raoul Ruiz

Produced by INA - Institut National de l'Audiovisuel

Release in France : 04/04/1979

  • Contents

Actors (16)

Production and distribution (2)

French distribution :

Hors Champ

TV Broadcasts: Cumulative total

TV broadcasts: details by country


Two narrators, one seen and one unseen, discuss possible connections between a series of paintings. The on-screen narrator walks through three-dimensional reproductions of each painting, featuring real people, sometimes moving, in an effort to explain the series' significance.


(L’hypothèse du tableau volé). A satire on the urge to define and thus control art, The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting concerns a doddering art collector anxious to show off his life’s work: the recreation—in human form—of several paintings by a great (imaginary) artist in the various rooms of his monstrous estate. Unfortunately, one painting in the series has been missing for years, the one that could be the clue to understanding them all—or not. Quizzed by a somewhat restless narrator, our art collector turns his theories one way, then another, fishing for meanings in an increasingly emptying sea. Meanwhile, the paintings themselves (or the humans recreating them) are beginning to grow restless. On one level, Hypothesis is a parody of creaky intro-to-art public television shows; for Ruiz, it’s also a detective story in which the pleasure “comes not from solving the mystery, but from moving from one level of interpretation to another, which complicates what has previously seemed straightforward.” A precursor to recent art-focused festival films like Greenaway’s Rembrandt’s J’Accuse and Majewski’s The Mill and the Cross, Hypothesis is one of the dryest, most deadpan satires on art and culture ever created.

© Jason Sanders,

Full credits (11)

Author of original work :

Pierre Klossowski

Voice :

Gabriel Gascon

Sound Recordist :

Xavier Vauthrin

Editor :

Jorge Arriagada

Production Designer :

Bruno Beaugé

Sound Mixer :

Jean-Claude Voyeux

Screenwriters :

Raoul Ruiz, Pierre Klossowski

Director of Photography :

Sacha Vierny

Camera Operator :

Maurice Perrimond

Assistant editor :

Anita Perez

Costume designer :

Rosine Venin

Technical details

Feature film

Genres :

Fiction, Experimental

Themes :


Production language :


Original French-language productions :


Nationality :

100% French

Production year :


French release :


Runtime :

1 h 5 min

Current status :


Approval :


Color type :

Black & White