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The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting

The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting

A Feature film by Raoul Ruiz

Produced by Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA)

Release in France : 04/04/1979


    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.

    Actors (17)

    Production and distribution (2)

    French distribution :

    Hors Champ

    TV Broadcasts: Cumulative total

    TV broadcasts: details by country


    (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

    Screenwriters :

    Raoul Ruiz, Pierre Klossowski

    Director of Photography :

    Sacha Vierny

    Editor :

    Jorge Arriagada

    Production Designer :

    Bruno Beaugé

    Sound Mixer :

    Jean-Claude Voyeux

    Sound Recordist :

    Xavier Vauthrin

    Voice :

    Gabriel Gascon

    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