Museums in heist films – QAGOMA Blog


The Art of the Heist’ film program has begun, and some classic crime stories are unfolding. What better way to delve into the program with some juicy heist scandals set in art museums?

RELATED: The heist: Cinema’s most beloved crime subgenre

In How to Steal a Million, the interior of the fictitious Musée Kléber-Lafayette was constructed in a studio, however scenes on the street outside the museum were shot in front of the Musée Jacquemart-André, a private museum in Paris. The museum was created in the home of Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart to display the art they collected during their lives.

A key scene in Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders) is a dizzying dash to break the world record for running through the Louvre Museum, Paris. The narrator informs viewers that their time was 9 minutes and 43 seconds, which broke the record set by Jimmy Johnson of San Francisco at 9 minutes and 45 seconds.

Topkapi is set on location in the grounds of Topkapı Palace, now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey, with the interior recreated in a studio. From the 15th century the palace served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans.

How to Steal a Million

How to Steal a Million 1966 stars Peter O’Toole and the ever stylish and elegant Audrey Hepburn is Nicole Bonnet the daughter of famed art collector Charles Bonnet. Bonnet’s prized sculpture the Cellini Venus is about to be displayed in a prestigious art museum. The only hitch: it’s a fake. Bonnet senior has a dark secret – for all his wealth and outstanding collection of bonafide artworks – he loves to dabble in forgery himself. It would mean terrible embarrassment and jail time if the art world found out the real story and Hepburn decides the only way to protect her father is to ‘steal’ the sculpture from the high security museum. Hepburn finds herself hiding in a broom cupboard of the Parisian museum with cat burglar Peter O’Toole in a madcap plan to retrieve the illicit artwork. The film is full of charm and great fashion by Givenchy.

Production still from How to Steal a Million 1966 / Director: William Wyler / Image courtesy: Park Circus

Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders)

The French New Wave master Jean Luc Godard’s 1964 film Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders) is a super stylish and free-wheeling robbery set in Paris. Anna Karina stars as Odile, a young woman who meets two restless and magnetic young men who propose a robbery in Karina’s own home. It’s just the daring she’s looking for as an antidote to her sheltered and stuffy life. A romantic, melancholic and bold re-imagining of the gangster film.

Production still from Band of Outsiders 1964 / Director: Jean Luc Godard / Image courtesy: Gaumont

Topkapi

Topkapi 1964 deserves to be better known than it is. A fabulously entertaining heist, the film is directed by Jules Dassin who made another iconic heist Rififi 1955. The object of desire in this film is a bejewelled dagger. The leader of the gang of crooks is Elizabeth Lipp played by the indomitable Melina Mercouri oozing Euro-chic. Keep your eye out for the suspenseful and gravity defying scene in the museum that will be very familiar to anyone who has seen Tom Cruise suspended by a wire in Mission: Impossible 1996.

Ah…they don’t make trailers like this anymore (more’s the pity). You have to take a look at this 1960s marvel. Only the divine Mercouri has the poise to so deftly pull this off.

Production still from Topkapi 1964 / Director: Jules Dassin / Image courtesy: Park Circus

The Art of the Heist

‘The Art of the Heist’ is a ticketed film program screening from 29 April to 26 June at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA. Visit the website to purchase tickets.

1950s
The Asphalt Jungle 1950 / Dir: John Huston

Armoured Car Robbery 1950 / Dir: Richard Fleisher
The Lavender Hill Mob 1951 / Dir: Charles Crichton
Rififi 1955 / Dir: Jules Dassin
To Catch a Thief 1955 / Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
Bob le Flambeur 1956 / Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville
The Killing 1956 / Dir: Stanley Kubrick
1960s
Bande à part
(Band of Outsiders) 1964 / Dir: Jean-Luc Godard

Topkapi 1964 / Dir: Jules Dassin
Cruel Gun Story 1964 / Dir: Takumi Furukawa
How to Steal a Million 1966 / Dir: William Wyler
The Thomas Crown Affair 1968 / Dir: Norman Jewison
The Italian Job 1969 / Dir: Peter Collinson
1970s

Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle) 1970 / Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville
The Sting 1973 / Dir: George Roy Hill
The Friends of Eddie Coyle 1973 / Dir: Peter Yates
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three 1974 / Dir: Joseph Sargent
Dog Day Afternoon 1975 / Dir: Sidney Lumet
Raining in the Mountain 1979 / Dir: King Hu
1980s

Thief 1981 / Dir: Michael Mann
Malcolm 1986 / Dir: Nadia Tass
1990s

Reservoir Dogs 1992 / Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Heat 1994 / Dir: Michael Mann
Mission: Impossible 1996 / Dir: Brian De Palma
Bottle Rocket 1996 / Dir: Wes Anderson
2000s

Sexy Beast 2000 / Dir: Jonathan Glazer
Oceans 11 2001 / Dir: Steven Soderbergh
The Hard Word 2002 / Dir: Scott Roberts
2010s

Fast Five 2011 / Dir: Justin Lin
Drive 2011 / Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
Victoria 2015 / Dir: Sebastian Schipper
Logan Lucky 2017 / Dir: Steven Soderbergh
Widows 2018 / Dir: Steve McQueen 
Hustlers 2019 / Dir: Lorene Scafaria
2020s

Kajillionaire 2020 / Dir: Miranda July

Rosie Hays is Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque.

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the ongoing Australian Cinémathèque program

QAGOMA acknowledges the generous assistance of the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra; and the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute, Taipei in providing materials for this program. 

QAGOMA’s Australian Cinémathèque presents curated programs, genre showcases and director retrospectives covering the world of film from crowd-pleasing fan favourites and cult classics to hard-to-find international cinema, rare 35mm prints and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Featured image: Production still from How to Steal a Million 1966

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