“The Painter and the Thief,” a documentary, and “Driveways,” a fictional film, are joining the Film Society’s virtual offerings. The two films are very different, but both explore unusual kinds of friendship.
While “The Painter and the Thief” is listed as a documentary, it seems hard to forget that it’s not a fiction film. A young Czech painter, Barbora Kysilkova, has moved to Norway, where she has a show at the Gallery Nobel in Oslo. It’s one of the few shows in her less-than-successful career. Kysilkova’s hyper-realistic work includes “Swan Song” and “Chloe & Emma.” As the show packs up, two men steal those two paintings, take them out of their frames and roll them up.
Their images are captured on the gallery’s video; they are tried and convicted. Why the paintings have been stolen, and where they end up remain mysteries. Kysilkova attends the court hearing, and asks one of the thieves, Karl-Bertil Nordland, if she can paint him. As the painter sketches, paints, and photographs Nordland, the two develop a deep connection, and the film explores how this odd friendship evolves. When the painter shows the thief her first portrait, he is overwhelmed and cries.
After the thief sustains serious injuries from an automobile accident, Kysilkova visits him in the hospital, bringing one of her portraits of him. The two often hug, suggesting romantic possibilities, but both have other partners, so their relationship is really about friendship. The director, Benjamin Ree, examines how two people can see each other through the other’s eyes. In addition to the nature of friendship, “The Painter and the Thief” considers forgiveness and the healing power of art. It is a fascinating film.
“Driveways” is a fictional film, also about friendship. Set in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., it concerns single mother Kathy (Hong Chau) and her about-to-be 9-year-old son, Cody (Lucas Jaye). The two arrive at the house of Kathy’s late sister April, from whom she’s been alienated, and start to clean it out. Twelve years older than her sister, April was a hoarder, and her house is filled with clutter, including a dead and foul-smelling cat. Del, played brilliantly by the late Brian Dennehy, is a Korean War vet who lives next door. A lonely boy, Cody develops a friendship with Del, who is also lonely after the death of his wife Vera. Together, they watch TV, eat popcorn, and attend Cody’s birthday party at a skating rink. In addition, Del teaches the boy how to drive the retiree’s mower, and takes him to the VFW hall, where he plays bingo with other elderly men, including forgetful Roger (Jerry Adler).
At first suspicious of this “stranger,” Kathy comes to understand the friendship developing between him and Cody. The boy doesn’t really fit in with the other neighborhood children, so his friendship with Del becomes increasingly important. For instance, Del shares stories with Cody, including a hitchhiking trip across the country that Del remembers fondly.
Korean American director Andrew Ahn expertly frames the ordinary lives of these people, their warmth and their concerns. The acting is powerful, and it successfully carries the slender narrative. Ahn builds a quiet, poignant story that will resonate with viewers.
To pay for and watch these two films, go to mvfilmsociety.com.