THIEF COLLECTOR, THE
(director: Allison Otto; screenwriters: Mark Monroe, Nick Andert; cinematographers: Rod Hassler/Matt Ryan; editor: Nick Andert; music:Daniel Wohl; cast: Jerry & Rita Alter (Glenn Howerton & Sarah Minnich); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Caryn Capotosto, Jill Latiano, Joshua A. Kunau: Diamond Docs; 2022)
“Unusually interesting film, even if it has nothing to say that is definitive about the theft.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An art theft film based on a true story that’s directed with curiosity by Attison Otto, in her first feature film. It’s written by Mark Monroe and Nick Andert.
In 1985, the famous 20th century painting by the abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning of the “Woman-Ochre,” worth $160 million, was cut from its frame and stolen at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. It was found 32 years later by antique dealer David Van Auker and his team in 2017. Auker bought the Alter estate for $2,000, and when taking inventory his team found the painting hanging in the Cliff, New Mexico modest home of the enigmatic retired teachers Jeff and Rita Alter. The couple was deceased-Jerry died in 2012, Rita in 2017. When the antique dealer returned the painting to the university, the FBI got involved but never found the couple’s motive.
In the opening, the film re-enacts the crime scene with actors (Sarah Minnich & Glenn Howerton).
The Thief Collector tries to uncover why this eccentric couple stole the painting and why they never tried selling it. We get no answers but lots of theories, and an unusually interesting film even if it has nothing to say that is definitive about the theft. Speculation is made by their neighbors and talking heads about their frequent trips around the world, their strange behavior and the short stories Jerry self-published cause some commentary. These seemingly normal teachers were apparently leading a double-life.
REVIEWED ON 4/16/2022 GRADE: B