And Justice for All: The Films of Norman Jewison, Part II

August 22, 2011 | By

'You know, people, it IS okay to laugh a little.'

Last Wednesday marked the only screening of Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair [M] (1968), his next film after In the Heat of the Night [M] (1968). It’s still one of the best fluff films ever made, mixing caper, romance, sex appeal, and humour into one slickly designed package resembling a glossy magazine pictorial from the sixties.

Art décor, artifice, and style, all lovingly set to Michel Legrand’s zippiest jazz-pop confection, and the classic song “Windmills of Your Mind.”

Of course, it was surprising how few in the audience realized they were allowed to laugh. I’ve seen the film a number of times, and know every raised eyebrow and quip by heart, but it took an hour before the stiffer attendees loosened up and started to chuckle; like the infamous chess game broke the ice between Vicki (Faye Dunaway) and Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen), it too seemed to be the sledgehammer that convinced the more tightwad members that laughing was okay.

At home I’d laugh aloud, but there’s an official comportment that’s apparently the law when the audience is comprised of a certain chemical makeup, and it may be this marginal contingent who mandated that no food be consumed during the Jewison films (it’s an Official Retrospective), but chowing down on popcorn during a Fellini flick is fine.

Der originale freshmacher.

The Tiff Bell Lightbox’s source copy was probably an original late sixties / early seventies print, sporting the old Transamerica logo before UA adopted the ‘scary logo’ featuring Joe Harnell’s marvelous music. Condition was pretty good overall, and Haskell Wexler’s cinematography really needs to be seen on the big screen; Thomas Crown may be his most commercial production among filmmkaers such as Elia Kazan (America America [M]), Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and Hal Ashby (Bound for Glory, Coming Home).

I’ve uploaded a review of the film, and would’ve loved to have found some related archival material at TVOntario’s streaming website, but I can’t quite recall where I heard a specific anecdote regarding Wexler that was always rather amusing.

Wexler may have been the one who told the story to TVO’s filmic emcee Elwy Yost, and it concerned a break during the filming of the glider sequence. Wexler liked the way a bunch of grass was blowing in the wind under a sunny sky, so he grabbed a camera and shot a few feet just for fun. When the film was edited, he found his grass footage in the movie, and the production’s reason for inclusion was simple: while it had nothing to do with the glider nor any of the montage elements, it was pretty.

It is, and so is the film, and if The Thomas Crown Affair reappears again on the big screen, do catch it.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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