Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Never Bring Anyone Here


“Can you believe it’s nearly October?” asks a character early in the 1999 remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. The film begins during an unseasonably warm autumn in New York, but the feeling of fall begins to make itself known later on, as the characters played by Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo grow closer and more conflicted.

The original AFFAIR in 1968 found most of its emotional weight in its Michel Legrand score, particularly the classic “Windmills of Your Mind”. The remake, while not finding its own sort of instant classic, does manage to achieve something similar with its music. There’s a light, twinkly Bill Conti score which works as ideal cocktail music but more important is the recurring use of the Nina Simone classic “Sinnerman”. Part of it turns up for the first time when Brosnan pulls off his first heist in the museum early in the film, but when it returns at a greater length back in the museum for the climax the lengthy song suddenly attains a great amount of weight, as if it’s underlining Thomas Crown’s last stand, something he’s doing purely for the love of Rene Russo’s character.


Catherine Banning as played by Rene Russo is the other great surprise of the movie. Entering the narrative relatively late, much like Faye Dunaway’s character in the original, she eventually takes over the film both in performance and in how the film really becomes about her. I don’t know if the script was always laid out this way, but it plays as surprisingly generous of Pierce Brosnan to allow her to emotionally take over the second half of the film. It’s almost as if we don’t need to continually show him in love with her—we already know that and allowing her to dominate gives us the chance to fall in love with her as well.


It’s not exactly Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, but it does feel more like a world I’m familiar with. One sequence late in the film has Brosnan and Russo, fully in love, wandering around lower Manhattan together. One shot has the camera whipping down from an angle on the World Trade Center to find them on the sidewalk. The release of the remake in 1999 was already a few years after I left New York, but it was still closer to my departure than ’99 is to now so the Manhattan seen here still holds some strong reminders for me. The unfortunate thing about autumn in New York for me in my memory is that I never realized how much I loved it until I was already living in L.A.

This wasn’t one of my favorite days at work and I have a feeling that tomorrow will be similar. If I wrote about my job, this would be the sort of day where I’d want to unload about a lot of things. But I don’t want to do that. Instead, I’m watching Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo spar with each other and it’s making me think of days and nights in New York in the autumn. That was a long time ago.

6 comments:

Jeremy Richey said...

The main thing I remember about this version is how incredibly sexy Rene Russo is in it, and how great I thought it was that they didn't cast some bland twenty-something actress in the role. It's hard to see a 40 plus actress playing a role like this anymore in American film so her performance and look in this really struck me...

Mr. Peel said...

She's fantastic in it...and someone her age would never be cast in the role today. It really is a problem with films being made right now. One thing I forgot to mention is the oft-rumored sequel THE TOPKAPI AFFAIR, though I don't know the status of the project right now. Forget that Brosnan already covered that ground in AFTER THE SUNSET, which wasn't a good movie, but it's already been said that only Pierce Brosnan would return from the original. This really seems to disregard one of the key elements that made the 1999 film work so well.

Tucker said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It's surprisingly well put together, and for a heist film, it quite mature. Maybe what I liked most about it is that it's a film made for adults. It recognizes the idea that adults can like both a good relationhsip story and a fun thievery story at the same time.

Mr. Peel said...

Tucker--

Agreed. When I first saw the film, I liked it but it actually seemed a little shallow. It's deepened for me over the years and that combination of maturity and elegance are one of the things that keeps me coming back to it.

M.A.Peel said...

One of my favorite films--

Mr. Peel said...

Mrs. Peel--

I'm glad to hear that it's one of your favorite films. Thoughts of autumn in New York led to my writing this piece so here's hoping you're healing up well and getting to see some of it.

--Mr. Peel