Monday, 11 February 2008

Film: How to Steal a Million

Lowdown: A Parisian woman recruits a burglar to steal her own stuff.
Review:
The phrase “they don’t do make them like that anymore” seemed to have been invented for How to Steal a Million, a 1966 comedy set in Paris and starring rather youngish versions of Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.
It’s all very simple, really: Hepburn is the loving daughter of a Parisian father whose hobby is to sell his drawings as original Rembrandts and such. Hepburn wants her father to stop, but he’s as addicted to it as I am addicted to blogging, and he even goes one step further by offering a high caliber Parisian museum his own “original” statue for them to display. However, he falls down his own trap and looks to spend some time in jail when the museum plans to inspect the statue’s authenticity in order to have it insured.
Help comes from an unexpected source: Hepburn catches a burglar trying to still a “valuable” painting from her own house, Peter O’Toole. Seemingly a villain, O’Toole, in a “totally unexpected” fashion, is recruited to save the day by stealing the fake statue before it can be inspected. In the process, the inevitable happens and Hepburn and O’Toole fall for one another.
Both Hepburn and O’Toole do an excellent job in this romantic comedy. It’s all very light and very unassuming, but it’s very entertaining just as well and doesn’t feel its age at all (apart from the repeating displays of antique Parisian police cars and the not so sophisticated museum security systems). Eli Wallach, recently seen in The Good The Bad and The Ugly and in The Holiday, excels yet again in a supporting role where he does an obsessed art collector; reprising a lot of the characteristics that made Tuco great, Wallach displays immense comedy talent.
The things to take from How to Steal a Million, a part from the laughs and the good feel, are to do with the way it was made. For a film set in Paris and involving Parisians, there is no word of French to be seen and not even an accent to be heard. For a male hero like O’Toole, the lack of any muscularity or any attempt to appear cool is evident by its contrast with what one is used to seeing today in all contemporary films; there is no modern day male hero that doesn’t stare at the camera as if saying “I’m an alpha”, unless the hero is an anti-hero. And overall, for a love story, there is a total luck of pornographic elements: I’m not talking about gross nudity and such, but the rather more “subtle” forms of pornography that by now we take for granted and most of us don’t even consider pornography anymore. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you won’t find anything that looks like it might belong in an FHM magazine while watching How to Steal a Million, even if the movie does make you think of what takes place behind the scenes. Thing is, the movie leaves it all for the viewers to handle inside the privacy of their brains, which in my view is a much better and much more effective way of doing things.
Best scene: I suspect the scene where Hepburn and O’Toole are locked in a tight museum cleaning cupboard is the most memorable scene the film offers.
Overall: Modern films can learn a lot of good things from this 3.5 out of 5 stars movie.

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