Thomas Crown Affair, The (1968)

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), produced and directed by Norman Jewison.

Millionaire Steve McQueen masterminds a bank heist from a distance; none of the robbers have ever met him or each other. Faye Dunaway is an unscrupulous insurance investigator who is on to him. Oops: chemistry catches, sparks fly and they play a sexy game of chess. During a love scene, instead of fading to black they go prismatic! Can they reconcile love with two strong wills, or does one have to crack?

It's been decades since I last saw this and I liked it quite a bit better than I expected. The 1999 remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo -- The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) -- is well done and more polished, but even less probable and lacks the 1960s cool. Russo was also much less likeable than Dunaway, who was already hard to take.

McQueen usually plays roughnecks and it's hard to imagine him as a millionaire thrill addict, but he makes it work with his innate cool and risk-taking persona. Dunaway has a variety of hairstyles; the ones where it is all piled on top of her head are unfortunate.

Jewison makes extensive use of multi-pane screen segments. I remember when this was predicted to be the next big thing in movie-making. It was irritating at the time, but now kind of nostalgic fun.

We want contradictory things from any heist or caper film: we want to see it go like clockwork, and we want to figure out how it is going to fail. Flaws of technique or of character, or just bad luck? The failure is of a different sort this time.

Filmed in Boston with a great in-the-streets look. Michel Legrand score. "The Windmills of Your Mind" was a famous 1960s tune. Yaphet Koto's first major film credit, age 31.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed with 4:3 pan-and-scan on the flip side. I see an expensive Blu-ray: an import?