Monday, June 18, 2007

His Eyes, Her Eyes


There’s no way I could analyze all the lyrics in Michel Legrand’s “Windmills of Your Mind,” but there was a point several years ago where a particular line, “Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong” really jumped out at me for the first time. It was like I was realizing as an adult that there were people I knew that I was going to know for a very long time…and some I wouldn’t. There was I girl I would see at parties and talk to a few times with a tone of being flirtatious but not really. One time, slightly drunkenly, I mentioned this line to her and how it was as if she was one of those half remembered faces for me. I can’t even remember her name now. So there you go.


“Windmills of Your Mind” originates from the original 1968 version of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, a heist picture with a cocktail of romance written by Alan Trustman and directed by Norman Jewison. A true showcase for the elegance of its two stars, Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, the film succeeds partly on its style and their chemistry. But much of its success comes from Legrand’s score and the true uniqueness of its Academy Award winning theme song which provides it with about 90 % of whatever depth it has.

The thrust of the film is the two leads are inevitably drawn to each other, but circumstances and character do not allow them to find a way to remain together. It seems to accept this as inevitable; McQueen and Dunaway's characters are like two comets that blaze past each other for a brief period of time and nothing longer is allowed. To remain together would result in a sort of death for each. The film seems ok with this inevitability, considering the only real look we get a normal marriage is Jack Weston’s crooked salesman and his (for good reason) untrusting wife who seems to shriek all of her dialogue at him.


The justly famous chess sequence, when the characters of Thomas Crown and Vicki Anderson really begin to connect, is as deliriously erotic as any scene ever shot. As they continue to play the close-ups become more intimate, more beguiling, more dreamlike. For several minutes, they say nothing. And that’s all they need to say.

It's a 60s fantasy, that's for sure, but it somehow manages to dig in and be something more than just half-remembered. Maybe it's that fantasy of how men and women find themselves drawn to each other, crossed with the inevitable reality of what comes after. Those are two things that remain difficult to reconcile. Suddenly aware that the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair, indeed.

If only it were as easy to communicate with women as Steve McQueen does when he simply looks at Faye Dunaway. If only.

3 comments:

Jeremy Richey said...

This is a great post. One of my my favorite films from the sixties, one of my favorite soundtracks and one of my all time favorite songs.
The lyrics really get to me to and the line, "Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair" absolutely destroys me as it reminds me of a particular lost red headed love in my life.
It truly is one of the great songs, thanks for paying tribute to it and the fantastic film it was used in.

Damian said...

Nicely Done, Mr. Peel. :)

I love the original Thomas Croiwn Affair (believe it or not, I actually enjoy it's remake too) and happen to think that "Windmills of Your Mind" is a great song. My favorite lyric was always "Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of it's own, down a hollow past a cavern where the sun has never shone." For a long time that was the sub-headline to my blog, but I removed it recently and put a graphic there instead.

I actually do my own elaboration on the song, what it means to me, and why I chose to name my blog after it, in a post called "Why Windmills?"

Mr. Peel said...

Thanks very much to you both for the kind words.

I like the remake as well--I'll have to write about why at some point.