Documentary films can be quite entertaining and fun to watch. Last year’s Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugarman” was one of the best films of the year. A new film coming to theaters soon is a very charming and funny documentary about the theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s the “Mona Lisa.”
“The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story” was directed and written by Joe Medeiros (“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”). In 1976, much to his surprise, Joe found out that the “Mona Lisa,” painted by the master of renaissance art, Leonardo da Vinci, had been stolen in 1911. The fact inspired him to learn more about the theft. He found that the “Mona Lisa” was stolen from the Louvre in Paris by an Italian worker Vincenzo Peruggia. The thief kept the painting in his tiny apartment in Paris for two years and the theft mystified the French police, as they were unable to detect the culprit.
Peruggia was finally caught when he tried to sell the painting to an art dealer in Florence, Italy. Peruggia was only jailed for a few months, but the theft brought worldwide attention to a painting that wasn’t that well known. Today the “Mona Lisa” is the most important individual piece of art in the world and much of this adoration for da Vinci’s work came directly from the attention the painting received during the theft by Peruggia.
There are quite a few books that describe the theft and how an Italian immigrant worker could pull off such an unthinkable crime. But there was a piece missing to this story. Why did Peruggio steal the painting? Did he fall in love with it while working in the Louvre? Did he steal it for someone else? Did he steal it to bring it back to Italy as a gift for his homeland?
All the scholarly works about the theft never had a conclusive answer. “The Missing Piece” finally answers this question. The film follows Joe on his journey to Italy to meet Peruggio’s 85-year-old daughter Celestina, follows the steps of Peruggia’s move to Paris and how he stole the painting, hid the painting in his Paris apartment and how Peruggia kept the painting from being detected by customs agents on his return to Italy.
The motive that was uncovered became a shocking surprise to Peruggio’s daughter as letters written by Perruggia, that were found during the journey, finally answered the question: why?
“The Missing Piece:Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story” is a thoroughly charming film of discovery. Along with solving a very intriguing mystery, Joe Medeiros shot interviews of historians and the volunteers that helped him with the translations of French and Italian documents – including the owner of Joe’s local pizzeria! The documentary also includes creative photograph manipulation that not only helps to tell the story, but brings gleeful frivolity to the story.
All in all, “The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story” accomplishes the initial goal that answers the question that filmmaker Joe Medeiros has been obsessed with since 1976. But it is the journey caught on film that is the real treat for filmgoer. It’s like a mini vacation at your local theater. Who could ask for more?
“The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story” is not rated and has a run-time of run-time of 1 hour and 25 minutes.