RogerBW's Blog

The Thomas Crown Affair (I) 25 January 2019

1968 crime/drama film, dir. Norman Jewison, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway; IMDb / allmovie. A successful businessman masterminds a Boston bank heist, coordinating five other men who've never met each other – or him. It's the perfect crime… but an insurance investigator is on his trail.

The opening titles use composites of multiple shots, and the technique – then a very new one – is continued into the body of the film, showing the telephonic coordination of the crew and simultaneous carefully-planned actions. It's good stuff; but because Crown himself isn't a part of the proceedings, it takes on a distance which isn't ideal. We're asked to believe, after all, that he's doing this because he's bored; wouldn't he be tempted to get more personally involved? After all, with his gliders and polo, he's hardly a physical coward.

But what this film is about is not the crime or the attempts to solve it, but the relationship that springs up between Crown and Vicki Anderson the insurance investigator. She's called in to help the police, immediately pins Crown as the most likely party, and falls into a sparring match and then an affair with him. But will she choose her career and the law, or her own happiness?

Faye Dunaway does a decent smoulder over a chess game, but is rather less effective when she's called upon to look like a smart woman trying to play both sides against the middle without getting too involved with either. Similarly, McQueen is fine as the man of action but doesn't quite convince as the bored businessman-playboy.

I can see why the film was re-made: later audiences wanted unambiguously happy endings. But for all its frothiness, this is a film that's trying to make a slightly more serious point, and tacking on an ending like that would have undermined it. Vicky can't have it all, so she has to make a choice.

It's not perfect, by any means: under-written, and over-filmed, it seems at times like a showreel for the director of photography. But there's some crunch here which is unfortunately rare in more recent films intended to have mass appeal.

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