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The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

by on 2014/01/25

thomas-crown-affair-1968“I can’t tell you. It would spoil the fun.”

* * * *

I first moved to Ottawa when I was 17. I established an early and long-standing ritual. Every time I finished one of my university essays, I would make a pilgrimage to the National Art Gallery.

My favourite stop on my frequent tours was the modern art section.  I could stand underneath a wall of Andy Warhol silk screens, and wander around the giant Campbell Soup cans. Then there were fully immersive modern art pieces that involved flashing lights, blaring music, a swirling kaleidoscope of colours that I could stand right in the middle of.

Norman Jewison’s gorgeous direction in The Thomas Crown Affair gave me the same sense of exhilaration that I felt being surrounded by art in those early days in Ottawa. This film let me travel through the billowing crimson of a smoke bomb, traverse the porcelain expanse of Faye Dunaway’s cheek bones (Chinatown), see the shimmering gemstone lights of a cityscape out of focus.

This Jewison artistry is of proud Canadian construction through and through. Jewison used the multi-dynamic image technique created by fellow Canuck Christopher Chapman. This technique was first used in the film A Place to Stand that premiered at the Montreal Expo 67.

With the multi-dynamic technique, stories are told Bento box style, with little segments of the action partitioned in black boxes. To mix my food metaphors, each image was rather like gorgeous little petit fours for my hungry eyes.

The action that revolves around a clever heist – interesting in its own right in any other film – is almost incidental. Hacker Renders said before he pressed play that the film in like an feature-length “music video.”

He was right.

The centre of the heist, the guffawing, manly mastermind is Steve McQueen (The Magnificent Seven). He’s sexy, he’s slick, and the interplay between McQueen and Dunaway at the pinnacle of her loveliness is electric.

The true star here, however, is Jewison. In lesser hands, this would be a satisfying film about a robbery, with two screen-chewing leads. In Jewison’s hand it is a work of art. A full-on sensory feast.

* * * *

102 minutes

Rated PG-13

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