|THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1968)|
|Time: 102 mins.|
Won Academy Award for Best Original Song. Nominated for Best Original Score.
I've wanted to see this film ever since I watched the remake last year with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. It's always intriguing to see whether the remake is better or worse, whether it does justice to the original. I have to say that though they share the same basic premise, they are different films with the focus on different characters. Both are average affairs worth seeing once due to the talent involved, but nothing you'll race out to see again. This version is more the male point of view. It is obviously a vehicle for Steve McQueen, a chance for him to break out of his tough guy roles. In the 1999 version, Rene Russo has the more showy role with Brosnan playing the sexy sidekick much like Dunaway does here. I'm sure Brosnan thought he was the star he plays the title character after all but there's no mistaking who steals that show. Make no mistake, Dunaway is smart and lust-inspiring, but she's definitely playing second fiddle in this version.
That's not to say that I think this is Steve McQueen's best role. I have no way to judge that, this being only the second film I've ever seen him in. He does, however, have a screen presence one can't deny and his performance here has definitely peaked my interest in his other films. In case you've unfamiliar with the story, McQueen plays Thomas Crown a wealthy millionaire by day, bank robber by night. So to speak. He doesn't actually rob the banks himself. He has hired guns who don't know each other pull off the heists for him. It's not that he needs the money, he just likes the challenge. He's bored and the logistics and danger help make his life worth living. (If only we all had that problem.) Unfortunately, his victims are not as amused by his hobby as he is. They hire an insurance investigator Vicki Anderson (Dunaway) to find their money. If she does, she gets paid. Otherwise she spends her free time merely looking fabulous.
The Boston Police aren't thrilled to have her around, but they have no other choice considering they have no leads whatsoever. It doesn't take long for Vicki to figure our who the perpetrator is, but the police don't believe her. Though it's her job to catch Crown and recover the money, she can't help falling for him. She claims she's dating him to uncover information about the crime, but she and Crown connect on a deeper level and are unable to deny their attraction for each other. Crown didn't get where he was by trusting blindly and though he wants Vicki, he knows she'd do anything to get the money. Not because she needs it, but because she needs to win just as much as he does. In the end, it comes down to a battle of wills and a matter of trust. It's hard to say whether it's a happy ending or not.
Highly stylized from the cinematography to the costume design, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR is joyous eye candy. Especially the robberies which are told from multiple points of view all at the same time. The action unfolds in various boxes on the screen, the most important being the largest. There are, at times, four to six different locations and characters showcased. It gives the you the chance to see every angle of the action, placing the audience at its center. You'd think this would be confusing, but in fact it makes the action all the more intense, since you're aware of every detail it takes to make it happen. In the hands of a director like Jewison, this technique gives a mediocre story an extra bit of pizzazz.
The other reason this film works as well as it does is the chemistry between Dunaway and McQueen. Though she's got a reserved vibe about her, it's obvious there's great passion below the surface and this film uses that to it's greatest advantage. Dunaway is not only remarkably irresistible for her beauty, but the part gives her brains and balls as well. The chess scene, which I'm sure is the sexiest version of the game every filmed, is filled with lust though they never touch. I needed a cold shower when it was over. This scene is ten times better than the sex scenes in the remake, which were over the top and ridiculous. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but all I could think of while watching Russo and Brosnan make love on the marble staircase was how cold and uncomfortable it looked. The original burns with sexual tension.
This may not be the best heist film every made or the best love story, but it definitely has enough style and sex appeal to make it worth seeing. It's a class act, even if the story is nothing exceedingly original.