The Thomas Crown Affair
Dir: Norman Jewison
Str: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Jack Weston
Everyone wants to be a millionaire. But be careful. The word
"millionaire" has two aspects.
Everyone wants to live like a millionaire. But only few can afford to do so.
In this respect, you must be careful about what a millionaire is. Because the word "millionaire" has
two aspects. One is rather related to its requirement, but the other is more symbolic. So it's completely possible
that, in the former meaning, some person is a millionaire, but in the latter meaning, the same person is not at
all. Though I will gradually explain this, to avoid unnecessary confusion, hereafter I will use the word "millionaire"
when the former aspect is referred to, and the word "Millionaire" when the latter aspect is referred
to. Please note that the latter begins with an upper case letter. This distinction implies the existance of rather
complex mechanism by which a mere millionaire can become a Millionaire after certain conditions have been met.
As I will explaine later, this conditions are very peculiar. Because they are rather like the negation of the value
itself the former aspect entirely relies upon.
Luxuary betrays all the economic principles. Luxury is devoid of the
necessity of external references.
This kind of mechanism is rather self-reflective, and has much more significance
than what you might think, for some values are more or less created in this way especially when they are related
to luxury. Luxury is self-reflective in that luxury means it is needed whenever it isn't actually needed; that
is, luxury becomes luxury when the necessity derived from external demands becomes irrelevant and it purely refers
to its own representation without any external reference. If something is for some purpose, it can't be luxury
at all. Being itself is the ultimate raison d'etre of luxury. Therefore, luxury betrays all the economic principles
that are mainly based upon the notion like lack of something such as "supply and demand" dominates everything
and constant external references establish the ground of every value. Thus, just being a millionaire doesn't necessarily
guarantee the person is a Millionaire. Because a millionaire have a requirement of having much money in his hand
in order to keep himself being a millionaire, which is obviously based upon the principle of "supply and demand"
in that money (supply) is required for being a millionaire (demand), and, at the same time, this means being a
millionaire requires an external references like "as he has much money, he can be referred as a millionaire".
On the other hand, a Millionaire doesn't have this requirement, and rather he can be a Millionaire because this
very requirement (having much money) is negated once again. Actually, he can be a Millionaire even without having
any money (You may consider the actual examples some millionaires are still considered a millionaire even after
he has been actually bankrupt, for, even so, they are still holding the status as a millionaire. But, in the case
an ordinary person temporarily earns a lots of money, and then lose money, after that, he will never be considered
to be a millionaire any more, even if temporarily having been a milliomaire.). For, being a Millionaire is based
upon the principle of luxury, which requires the negation of the necessity of external references. Some sort of
value can arise only after the external reference of that very value itself is once negated. Luxury is one of such.
Because luxury needs a lot of money, but the value of luxury doesn't arise from the fact a lot of money is required.
Therefore, if you proclaimed loudly the fact you had spent much money for something, you would be never considered
to be the person who deserved the luxury of it. This is completely different from "supply and demand"
scheme, and being a Millionaire requires the negation or rather the ignorance of being a millionaire. In short,
there are two kind of rules. One is the rule of economy that is governed by "supply and demand" scheme,
and is the case with a millionaire. The other is the rule of luxury that is governed by rather self-reflective
reference, and is the case with a Millionaire. This is truely difficult to understand. But, by watching The
Thomas Crown Affair, you might be able to grasp this mechanism somehow.
What is the story like?
The movie has Steve McQueen as a Millionaire in the terms of previous
paragraph. He has a lot of money, and lives in a very gorgeous house. Even he plays with a glider and a sand baggy,
and plays polo. Up to this point, even usual millionaires would be able to do such things to show their status
as a millionaire. But, he performs what usual millionaires never do. He conducts bank robberies by hiring special
executors without having them know of him. And he succeeds. Then, a highly efficient female investigator of insurance
matters (played by Faye Dunaway) comes into play, and she correctly guesses he must be the real culprit of the
bank heist. So she approaches him even without the effort of hiding the fact she knows he did it. This obviously
suggests her strong self-confidence as an extremely efficient person. After that, their peculiar relationship begins.
Firstly, there is a chess match between them (this is a very famous scene). At this time, he loses because he is
distracted from the game by her diversion including sexual implications. Thereafter, they meet each other frequently
partly because she needs the information about him to investigate the bank robbery, and partly because they are
attracted to each other. Finally, he admits he did it. Then he tells her about another bank heist, and he executes
it. In the last scene, she is waiting him with police officers in the place where money to be stolen is to be temporarily
stored. But he doesn't come, for he is on an airplane flying far above where she, along with police officers, is
waiting him. Instead, she gets a letter from an errand boy, implying, as he will go abroad first, so she can do
whatever she wants to do with that stolen money; she may come after him, or.....
The distance between these two is very far, even if they have
many common characteristics as an efficient person.
This last scene clearly suggests how far the distance between these two is,
by showing the vast difference of the altitude each one is in (McQueen on an airplane flying at high altitude,
while Dunaway on the ground), even though they both have a tremendous amount of efficiency and style and drive
for actions, etc. This difference between these two I can explain by using the aforementioned words "a millionaire"
and "a Millionaire". Faye Dunaway is a millionaire. Of course, I know she might not be even a millionaire
at all. But that is not the point here. The fact that she could be a millionaire at any time by her efficiency
and other skills is sufficient enough. On the other hand, Steve McQueen is a Millionaire. And, this difference
alone can make them far larger different to each other than their sameness can make them alike. For example, Steve
McQueen conducts bank robbery for nothing or for bank robbery itself. For him, there is no external reference to
"bank robbery" as an act; that is, not for money, not for charity like Robin Hood, even not for status.
In other words, for him, a bank robbery is just a bank robbery, no more and no less than that. Faye Dunaway can't
understand this point. In a scene, she asks him a question; why he did the bank robbery despite the fact he had
a lot of money. This obviously means she is considering in the terms of economy "supply and demand",
and thinking if someone did something, there had to be a reason for it, or at least a purpose of it. But that is
completely not the case with McQueen. He answers this question by saying "me and system". Though I am
not sure what "system" means in this case as I am not a native English speaker (I guess it means his
whole body, but not sure, please teach me if you know), this phrase is obviously self-reflective, for he, himself,
is the reason for the bank robbery, no external reference here. This is the principle of luxury, not economy.
Then, why is Steve McQueen defeated by Faye Dunaway in that
And, the aforementioned chess match. In this scene, actually they are playing
different kind of games, even though they are seducing each other. For Dunaway who is the one firstly mentioning
playing chess, the chess match is an opportunity to get a higher position than McQueen by winning it so that her
investigation will proceed advantageously. Therefore, she uses every tactics she can utilize. In contrast with
her, McQueen has no external reason for playing the chess match other than just playing. Hence, even defeat by
a female person in such a male chauvinistic game like chess means nothing for him. So he easily lose, or he unintentionally
wins by losing. In another scene, Faye Dunaway gives her male colleague a present on the surface of which the phrase
"think dirty" is described. There is no doubt in that she is thinking in the terms of economy in this
scene; that is, how one can gain maximum benefit from limited resource, the answer is "think dirty",
that sort of thing. Steve McQueen would never think dirtily as well as straight. Because, for him, "how"
doesn't mean anything. As he is a man of luxury, such a thesis like how one can achieve something is completely
irrelevant to his life. While the questions using "how" always result from scarcity of something, which
is the motive of economy, luxury is always the result of abundance or rather excess and redundancy. In this point,
there is unnegotiable gap between McQueen who has the status as a Millionaire from first and Dunaway who doesn't
have such luxury. And, this difference certainly culminates in the last scene.
This movie has two important assets. Special visual effect (split
screens) and music.
Finally, I should mention two assets of this movie, which every review
about this movie refers to. One is the use of split screens. The other is the stunning scores composed by the French
genius Michel Legrand. As for split screens, before this movie, I presume there had been no movie using split screens
this much. Of course, there had been the movies utilizing split screens for certain functions like showing the
persons of both ends of a telephone line. But, in the case of The Thomas Crown Affair, it's clear that split
screens are utilized for special visual effect as well as for practical functions, for too much splitting up a
screen like this movie can ruin the functionality of making the scenes they are applied to easy to watch. Though
I think this utilization of split screens has succeeded in evoking the feeling of stylishness both lead characters
are supposed to have, this kind of impression could vary according to the person watching it. Therefore, some persons
might think it makes the scenes very difficult to watch. As for the music, not only the theme song "The Windmills
of Your Mind" is splendid, but also it has succeeded in conveying the overall atmosphere of the movie quite
well. Gliding in the sky (actually there is such a scene), such feeling this song has. Anyway, this movie has very
refreshing feel because Steve McQueen is playing a person who is gliding and sailing in his life stylishly and
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