Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How to Steal a Million

"How to Steal a Million" (William Wyler, 1966) Audrey Hepburn, all Givenchy'd up and no place to go, with her "Roman Holiday" director, William Wyler. Now the locale is Paris--the exteriors, at least--and the slim plot revolves around Hepburn securing the services of an art thief (Peter O'Toole--committed, but aloof) to break into a National Gallery to nab a statue (created by her forger-father) before the insurance company can examine it and expose it as a fraud. It takes about an hour of cute dialogue, spry encounters, several costume changes and an incident of "meet-cute" before we get there. The rest of the movie documents the long, drawn-out robbery which relies on false alarms--and we see all of them. There is magnetism involved, but not among the principal actors--Hepburn pirouettes in her own spotlight, and O'Toole observes, amused. Wyler, on the other hand, is content to make sure we see how expansive the sets are, like he was still filming "Ben-Hur." Those sets, however, never seem more than nattily-dressed cavernous soundstages (his next film would be the equally leaden "Funny Girl"). It's a trifle, with all the consistency of just-applied meringue, and with as much confectioner's sugar.

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