AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2012
By Caitlyn Collins | October 24, 2012
Director: Joe Medeiros
Most people can spout off a fact or two about Leonardo da Vinci; at the very least, they know he is the painter of La Gioconda — or Mona Lisa, as she is more commonly referred. The Mona Lisa is one of the (if not THE) most famous paintings in the world; but its rise to international fame is due in large part to a relatively unknown man, Vincenzo Peruggia. The Missing Piece: The Truth About the Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa is the passion projection of director Joe Medeiros. Self-admittedly, Medeiros has been fascinated by Peruggia for decades. The film is his journey to uncover the story of and motivations behind Peruggia’s theft from the Louvre on August 21, 1911.
The story of Peruggia is particularly captivating because everyone knows the subject of his heist; yet, as Medeiros proves, everyone has their own theory about why Peruggia stole the painting. Medeiros has spent years researching Peruggia’s life and his time and effort show throughout his film. His several interviews with Peruggia’s 84-year-old daughter, Constantina, are incredibly charming. She lives in the same small Italian town of her, as well as her father’s, birth. However, the majority of the documentary is set in Paris and the Louvre.
Medeiros carefully pieces together Peruggia’s tale by researching archives and libraries for any information on the famous thief. How and why did he do it? And where did Peruggia hide the Mona Lisa? The facts are interspersed with animations that verge on cutesy, but add an element of fun nevertheless. Medeiros is not the least bit camera shy; peppering the film with shots of himself and his wife that don’t seem entirely necessary. Then again, it is his project. I was utterly captivated by The Missing Piece and am glad that Medeiros turned his project into a documentary instead of his intended screenplay. Through his diligence his film outlines the theft and brings a sense of closure to Peruggia’s living kin.