I just finished watching How to Steal a Million (1966), a rather light and delightful little caper comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. There really isn’t too much to this film, Hepburn’s father is an art forger and when one of his fake works (actually made by his grandfather) is going to be tested Hepburn goes against all her values and plans a heist.
The film never really reaches a climax, but never delves into boredom. It pales in comparison to the similar Charade, and I think could have been more self aware or it would have been nice if the actors looked as though they were having more fun. O’Toole and Hepburn don’t have too much chemistry, but in their own rights are good enough actors to make it work. A cameo by Charles Boyer is wasted, as is Eli Wallach, who still brightens the film somewhat. It looks great though, the colours are vibrant and the integration of art is wonderful. The film is a great way to spend an afternoon, and if you’re a fan of Hepburn or Wyler I recommend it.
I don’t know if it’s entirely the point of the film, but I am interested in the question of forgery. Unlike F for Fake, Welles’ interesting look at fakers and forgeries in the art world, here the question isn’t so much about lying or morals, but what is art? Hepburn’s father is somewhat arrogant, but he is right in saying that his work is just as beautiful and emotive as the originals. The difference is that if his name were attached it would be valueless. Of course Van Gogh, or Cezanne deserve their acclaim for a reason, and undermining their efforts, diversity and innovations they brought to the art world. It still begs to question the motive behind acquiring art. I think this is fully expressed through Wallach’s character who attempts to buy culture, and thinks everything has a price tag. He doesn’t take pleasure in seeing art in a museum, he wants to own it. Cutting off the world from seeing what should be shared. I can’t say I’m particularly enthousiastic about private collectors, especially those who never share their collections with museums. It seems a waste, and self-indulgant.
On a final note, Hepburn has lovely outfits.. as always.