I’m going to do this as a free write, the same way I did for Emos vs Emus. I’m considering doing these sorts of “movie plots” as a podcast as my fiancee yelled at me to follow my dreams last night and I never have the time to write these things out long form. And this is more or less what my mind naturally does anytime I stare out a window.
-The movie opens in the Louvre, panning down a long line of people waiting to look at the Mona Lisa. The Louvre has just opened and the viewing room is not accessible yet. There’s some of that French riverside music you hear anytime you’re in a movie and you want people to know “THIS IS FRANCE.” We see a small boy and his parents walk by the line. The parents are pointing excitedly at random works of art. The child is absorbed in his cell-phone, playing games.
VOICE OVER: “The problem with the modern world, is that nobody really stops to notice anything anymore.”
With a majestic renaissance painting in the background (the kind that obviously took decades to create) the boy continues to play some kind of mindless freemium games and gets to some level where he’s completely absorbed in clicking on coins.
VOICE OVER: “This is, of course, to be expected.”
In the periphery of the screen, some security guards hear something come in on their radios and walk off. The walk becomes a jog. We sense that they’re running a few seconds later but by this time they’re off the screen and the French riverside music is clashing with the sounds of the boy’s video games.
VOICE OVER: “The world is simply too big, too enormous. It is no mistake our minds are encased in a shell of bone. Every moment we are alive, our minds seek to shut out the fullness of life lest it overwhelm us.”
The parents of the child push him until he’s walking in a new direction. In the background we see breathtaking statues, incredible sculptures and more of the kind of paintings that make you want to cry.
VOICE OVER: “But this is no way to live.”
There are alarms sounding now. More guards are rushing to and fro. Still, the child has not looked up from their video game. Although the parents are obviously befuddled. The parents make their way back toward the entrance of the Louvre, part of a massive herd of people being pushed in that direction.
VOICE OVER: “From time to time, the shell must be smashed. Beauty must flood in, unrestricted. The world must be seen anew, bathed in all its glory.”
A scowling detective arrives in the Louvre, bumps into the boy, and knocks the boy’s phone out of his hands. The boy looks up but another officer has accidentally crushed his phone already as the whole of the Louvre goes into quarantine. The French guards all gather in a circle and say “Impossible” but in that French way where’s there’s one less S or something.
The detective suddenly shouts in a silent Louvre, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE MONA LISA HAS BEEN STOLEN?!?!?”
The boy, suddenly snapping back to reality, for even he understands the significance of this, gasps. Moments later, people are crying and generally causing an uproar.
VOICE OVER: “And when something opens us in this way, we call it art.”
Cut to one of those super nice trains that only exist in Europe, and not like in America which only has the Walmarts of trains. A stunning young auburn haired Polish INTERPOL agent is reading a French paper and highlighting various passages. She has impeccably organized files next to her and her entire bearing speaks of meticulousness, order, and an unwavering belief in structure.
Several young students, who are dressed in that way young people are when they’re playing the part of who they’re going to be, before they’ve quite actually figured out what that is and gotten good at it, are arguing in front of her.
MALE STUDENT 1: “Francois Pierre or some other French name is the greatest! His work shows the meaninglessness of our lives! The despair and nihilism of existence! Of course this Critic, this agent of the bourgeois, demeans his work!”
Another equally dramatic student declares:
MALE STUDENT 2: “Merde! You sound like a reactionary newspaper! These tastes? These paintings he has stolen? Impeccable, I say! And the crime itself? A masterwork!”
FEMALE STUDENT 3: “You are both small-minded misogynists? He? Such assumptions! Did you not see how the Critic took from the works of female artists? Evelyn Esperanza? Lilly blah blah? The Critic is obviously a woman!”
The students begin talking over one another, trying to decide what it all means.
The train comes to a stop. It becomes apparent as the stunning young INTERPOL agent stands and surveys the train that everyone is talking about the recent theft. She grabs her items and leaves, walking through the streets where again everyone can be seen to be talking about the incident. She eventually reaches a police line where she shows her badge and is admitted.
We find the grumpy detective from before. The INTERPOL agent coughs politely but is ignored.
“What do you mean there is no camera footage? It’s the FRENCH F WORD LOUVRE! No prints? No DNA? Nothing?!?!?!”
“Pardon me,” says the stunning INTERPOL agent but she is ignored..
“Where did he take all the paintings then? He took three dozen paintings! Where did they go? How did he get them out of the building?”
There’s some more yelling.
“Pardon me,” says the stunning INTERPOL agent again.
“I have the FRENCH F WORD PRESIDENT on the phone! This criminal defaced her husbands work! I have to have someone to put in front of her, and at this point I don’t care if he’s guilty or not!”
The stunning INTERPOL agent taps the grumpy detective on the shoulder.
“WHAT?!?!” he barks.
“Have you tried analyzing the paint he used?”
DETECTIVE GUY: “What are you even talking about?”
INTERPOL AGENT: “He Flunked Francois Pierre, isn’t that right? He almost never does that and when he does he always uses red paint, made from materials common during the regions Golden Age or from the work of a superior contemporary artist. We almost caught him in Poland by tracking them down. I led the raid on his hideout. The soup was still warm.”
GRUMPY DETECTIVE: “YOU?! You are the INTERPOL liaison? Some… girl child?”
INTERPOL AGENT AMANDA reaches into her briefcase and pulls out some files.
AMANDA STAND IN: “I have prepared some files to catch you up to speed. You are aware that the Critic has been active for the last ten years, no?”
GRUMPY DETECTIVE: “I do not have time for some Robin Hood story-”
AMANDA STAND IN: “He is not Robin Hood. He is a fanatic. If you are to have any hope of catching him, you must understand that.”
Reluctantly, the Grumpy Detective takes the files, moved by Amanda’s obvious competence.
AMANDA STAND IN: “He has committed over three hundred thefts, if you count the returns. His first crime was in New York, or at least the first believed crime, was in New York. He stole a Banksy from a private collector. It was gone for three months and then returned exactly where it had been taken from. This was thought to have been some kind of private prank. Only later, when word got around the art community, did it emerge as his pattern.
“He would take paintings from museums, private collections, sometimes even from studios when the paint was barely dry, and then after some indefinite period of time, rarely as long as a year, he would return them with a little white card. A few sentences written in black ink and a letter grade. His tastes and observations have been universally lauded as impeccable.”
GRUMPY DETECTIVE: “If he has been active so long… leaving HAND WRITING SAMPLES… why hasn’t he been caught?”
AMANDA STAND IN: “Because the art community will not cooperate! It has been most frustrating trying to make in-roads. They consider him to be some kind of mythical standard. Every artist, every style, every nation, they all dream of having their work stolen and judged by him. Whenever I arrive at a crime scene it is the same. Those whose work has been taken? They smile and will say nothing. Those whose work has been left behind? Even they will not cooperate! They cry and wonder what they did wrong!”
GRUMPY DETECTIVE: “Well, this will not stand in France! The Louvre is not a library! And he defaced the work of the President’s husband! A painting valued at over five million euros!”
AMANDA STAND IN: “That is the fifth time he has done that. Or rather, the fifth artist. In LA, he Flunked an entire gallery of Thierry Guetta’s-”
GRUMPY DETECTIVE: “Mr. Brainwash? I thought that was a prank? A set-up?”
AMANDA STAND IN: “If it was, the Critic did not appreciate the prank. He hates cynicism. The only commonality among the artists he has flunked is that they were acclaimed and that they hated humanity.”
The pair have walked into the Louvre and now stand below a giant painting of the Earth aflame in an image of a smiley face. Over this image, defacing it, is a large letter “F.”
Okay, I have to do laundry and dishes so we’re going to be very very brief here. You never actually see the Critic’s face by the way. He’s always just a bit too far away or a bit too far in the shadows.
-There’s some scene in a cafe where the grumpy detective is eating food and just inhaling it and going over the political realities of the situation and revealing that the French President’s husband is a huge eco-terrorist asshole who believes that everyone should die because death is awesome for vague intellectual “reasons.” Everyone in the cafe is on their phone and not looking at anything. Amanda Stand In just drinks a regular coffee with nothing in it, solidifying her as an ascetic.
-They have a breakthrough on the paint and run down to a shop, interrogate an owner who is painting a picture. The owner is distracted as they question him and he keeps going back to paint and says he doesn’t remember the person who bought the paint very well, just the way he felt when he spoke to the man, like he was being listened to and understood. And how the man encouraged him to paint the truth in his heart, and it didn’t matter what it looked like, as long as he made it the best way he could make it. They eventually get a receipt and track it down.
-They interview an improv artist who does stuff similar to Improv Everywhere and he talks about how he met a man he believed to be the Critic once. They were doing a prank that made people very happy and he says that he spoke with the Critic and the Critic said they were colleagues making artwork in the “Genre of Positive Crime” meaning tricking people into being happy in ways they hadn’t expected or consented to.
-They go to a small hole in the wall one-room apartment place where they expect to find the Critic and there is a chase, where as the chase goes on the detectives and the pursuing team realize it’s been meticulously orchestrated to be fun. They never quite catch up with the Critic as they’re defeated into doing things like sliding around on marbles and falling off of buildings onto goose down pillows and getting embroiled in a paint gun war right when they think they’ve caught up to the Critic.
-There’s another scene at the exhibition of the nihilist eco-terrorist guy, thrown with a bunch of fancy people and the detective and Amanda have to stand guard. The evil artist guy gives a speech about how man is out of ideas and how it is time to accept the death of the species, although never quite that outright, but in a very smart way that I would be able to decipher because I would be writing it, but which would just leave you feeling pissed off and flustered and unable to articulate why. He goes to unveil all of his new paintings and everyone gasps as they realize they’re all the works that have been stolen from the Louvre minus the Mona Lisa. From behind the evil artist guy, on a building across the way, a fire can be seen on a roof top.
The detectives run over to investigate. They see a group of the young art students from the train earlier painting by firelight on blank canvases. Amanda scrapes on one of the paintings and reveals that it had one of the evil Artist’s paintings underneath. In the burn barrel, are some of the various traps that were set for the Critic.
-Another chase scene with the critic, this time on a train. Every car they run through has a setting from a different artistic era from Rome, to ancient China to modern day America. The Critic is almost caught by the Grumpy Detective but at the last moment the Critic knocks his gun aside and sticks a tasty well-made version of whatever it was that the Grumpy Detective was eating before in the detective mouth. He also fights with Amanda Stand In and lets her hair down, cuts her clothing not to be more revealing but to be more fashionable and gives her a better coffee than what she had been drinking before, which he does by taking a coffee pot she had been trying to smash against his head and then putting various things in it as he dodges her.
-The film culminates with the entire French police force trying to catch the Critic as he is returning the Mona Lisa. The Critic distracts them with a dazzling light show, a paint gun like the Mythbusters had that shoots the image of the Mona Lisa onto a whole group of people and tanks and things. As he enters the love he fights AMANDA STAND IN and GRUMPY DETECTIVE who is, plot twist, me and he makes them sit down to a nice dinner by knocking them down into chairs and things and twisting their arms and putting champagne glasses in them.
They eventually fall back in their chairs, utterly outmaneuvered and exhausted, too beat up to move, sitting at a candlelit table in front of the Eiffel tower.
-The Critic confronts the evil artist guy in the Mona Lisa room. The Evil artist pulls a gun on him. The Critic reveals that he never destroyed any of the paintings, and that he made replicas and destroyed those instead. He gives an inspired speech, which will be totally moving, about how the greatest wish of any artist is to be understood and that he has understood the Evil Artist and what he has to say is not joyous. The Evil Artist counters that all art is not meant to be joyous. The Critic responds “True, but all art is meant to be human.”
The Evil Artist says he does not understand, but that he thinks he did, once, when he was younger.
THE CRITIC: “Art is a moment caught in amber, a mote of dust passing through a sunbeam, a breath between one moment and the next to step back and reflect on what it is to be here on this Earth. Art is there for when we need not to look but to SEE, not listen but to HEAR, not to sense but to FEEL. When being alive is not enough and only being human will do.”
The EVIL ARTIST Lowers his gun and nods at the Mona Lisa.
THE EVIL ARTIST: “What were you doing with her?”
THE CRITIC: “Appreciating her. Seeing her. Up close.”
We leave with a scene of the Evil Artist putting the Mona Lisa back in place, with a faint Mona Lisa smile on his lips.
-The end scene is of the kid at the beginning working on his computer, looking out a window and going back to his computer. His phone is left on his nightstand and it looks as if it has not been touched in a long while. On his computer he is constructing a VR replica of the Louvre.