Documentary on art heist on truth, reality and image • AIPT

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The collector thief is a real detective documentary that starts off on the right foot. In 1985, one of the most valuable paintings of the 20th century was stolen in broad daylight from a museum in Arizona. When it was discovered three decades later, it raised even more questions. The film’s use of dramatic re-enactments is the highlight. Glenn Howerton and Sarah Minnich are excellent as Jerry and Rita Alter, the thrill-seeking couple who end up being at the center of The collector thief. They bring an element of comedy to the already bold art theft.

It becomes clear early on that The collector thief going to be more about Quirks than the actual flight. Although it never strays from the crime, such as examining the theories as to why the painting was stolen, the crux explores the couple’s life. Stories about both include being smuggled into countries to answer questions about illegal international agreements. Just when it seems like things have reached their peak, the tales get even crazier.


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There is a mystery of the unknown that hovers over all stories. Truth, reality and perception are a big part of The collector thief. The promise of answers leads to even more questions. Few documentaries stay this engaging all the time. The collector thief at times when it strays from its lighter tone. This includes a weird departure about how Jerry was able to control his wife. While these moments don’t seem out of place, they don’t take away from the overall enjoyment.

The collector thief comes to SXSW on March 13

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