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  • The Thomas Crown Affair
    • The Thomas Crown Affair
    • Runtime:102 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-18 00:51:42
    • Director: Norman Jewison
    • Genres: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:The Thomas Crown Affair


Oddly enough, I had only seen the John McTiernan remake of THE THOMAS
CROWN AFFAIR and while I realize it wasn't a masterpiece, I found it an
entertaining and enjoyable caper. I just assumed that the original
would be superior in every way and was excited about its airing on Reel
13 last night. After all, Norman Jewison, Steve McQueen and Faye
Dunaway seem like a late sixties dream team (Jewison was coming off of
directing the Best Picture Oscar-winner the year before – IN THE HEAT
OF THE NIGHT). Instead, the film had absolutely no emotional impact on
me at all and left me surprised, bewildered and severely disappointed.

At first, I couldn't figure out where it went awry. I kept wanting to
like it, expecting it to turn a corner and pique my interest, but then,
before I knew what hit me, it was over. It starts promisingly enough
with a clever bank heist, but Crown isn't physically involved in the
robbery and we never really see him planning it in any way, so he's
sort of passive, as heroes go, especially given it's essentially the
only heist in the film (the second one at the end is a quickly cut
carbon copy of the first). Then, Faye Dunaway, as insurance
investigator Vicki Anderson, solves the mystery of the robbery WAY too
easily. She walks in, looking young and stunning in several ridiculous
overly fashionable outfits, bats her eyes and more or less decides that
Crown is the guilty party. So, the two major elements of any crime -
the crime and the investigation – are rushed through and devoid of any
suspense whatsoever.

It's almost as if Jewison was in a rush to get to the longest scene in
the film – the sexy chess match, which Norman clearly was setting up as
the not-so-subtle metaphor of the movie (Did Dunaway really need to
suggestively stroke one of the phallic-looking chess pieces?
Cheeee-sy). It was around this time that it occurred to me that it's
not supposed to be a cops and robbers movie as much as it was supposed
to be a love story. That's fine, in theory, but even their relationship
scenes are rushed. He gives her a dune buggy ride on the beach and
suddenly, they're soulmates? Sorry, I don't buy it.

I'm most disappointed in Jewison, who normally is such a stickler for
detail and is so careful in his storytelling. Here, he seems more
interested in the natural beauty of both his lead actors than in the
plot. Even the device he employs early in the film of dividing the
screen into boxes falls flat or rather, he doesn't use it to advance
the story (like the current television show "24" does a great job of).
While he does have several things going on at once – the robbery comes
at the bank from five different angles – he would instead chooses to
use his four of his blocks to show Steve McQueen and the rest are out
of focus. Then, when all of Crown's pawns are at different places in
the bank, Jewison returns to full frame shooting at a time where the
blocks might have really been useful/effective. Stylistic choices like
that need to serve the story, not to show off the director's ability to
do tricks.

I can almost see why McTiernan felt like it was a necessary film to
remake. The plot has a lot of potential – extremely wealthy man plots
bank robberies (or in the case of the remake – art heists) and then
meets his match when an attractive, intelligent insurance investigator
becomes the first to suspect him. Sounds great, doesn't it? But this
original version barely scratches the surface of that juicy plot and
invests more time in Michel Legrand's bizarre rhythmless song
"Windmills in My Mind" (connecting Crown to Don Quixote). If you want a
fun caper movie (I never thought I would say this), rent the remake.
Norman Jewison has made a lot of great films, but he really bungled
this one.

(For more information on this film or any other Reel 13 film, check out
their website on http://www.reel13.com)


And I've never liked Faye Dunaway. But The Thomas Crown Affair is an
credibility-challenged bit of heist fluff that captures the wealthy
cool zeitgeist of 1967. The best single part of TTCA is Steve McQueen,
arguably the King of Cool in this time period. His Thomas Crown,
wealthy beyond comprehension, finds amusement in planning the robbing
of banks. He's an utterly charming sociopath who enjoys the challenge
of slapping morality in the face without his hand being seen.

His adversary is Faye Dunaway, an insurance investigator whose
character seems to have been written not as a recognizable human being
but as a fabricated love-interest/huntress in some of the weirdest
designer gowns this side of Star Trek. We simply cannot believe her,
but McQueen has some depth.

So what do we do with a movie that is almost totally dependent on style
instead of substance? We double-down on the style! The dune buggy, the
glider, the lean-and-mean cool of McQueen juxtaposed in an ultra-square
three-piece suit (with watch chain) all help to paint a cultural
picture of the six-and-up figure income set in the Age of Aquarius.

And then there's that chess game.

I don't know what to think about Norman Jewison's The Thomas Crown
Affair. It's fun to watch, but so is the occasional 60s sitcom. It's as
tailored as McQueen's suits, but the movie and the suits have nothing
much in them.

My grandmother used to refer to her favorite pastries as "air." That's
what TTCA is, a fluffy nothing filled with calories.


Millionaire robs a bank for the fun of it, and is pursued
(professionally and romantically) by insurance investigator. Although
miscast, McQueen is cool as always. Dunaway is hot. They have great
chemistry, with the chess scene one of the best screen depictions of
smoldering passion. Other than the stars, there isn't much to this
lethargically-paced movie. Following a lame buildup, the heist scene is
quite disappointing. Jewison fancied himself an innovator, but his
directorial style is annoying. Here he randomly splits the screen into
multiple small frames. Not only does this not enhance the storytelling,
it is also extremely distracting.


The Thomas Crown Affair is a very good movie, that I do think is
superior to its remake. While its remake is although stylish and
slicker perhaps, what it lacked was the clever interplay between the
two leads. The film does look a little dated and starts off slowly, but
there are some nice locations and costumes especially that exquisite
dress Faye Dunnaway wears in the chess scene. Director Norman Jewison
directs with precision, and the screenplay has an essence of
sophistication. The plot is tense in places, subtle in others. The
music is outstanding, and the song Windmills of Your Mind thoroughly
deserved the Oscar it won for it is a superb song. The performances are
brilliant; Steve McQueen plays Thomas Crown with style and intent and
Faye Dunnaway looking as stunning as ever was a revelation as Vicki
Anderson. What stood out most of all was the chess scene, one of the
most sensual scenes in any movie, and the heist itself was cool. All in
all, stylish and underrated. It has its flaws, but it is a definite
affair to remember. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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