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McQueen's showy affair

STYLE is the thing with The Thomas Crown Affair (Pearl, 9.30pm). It has been likened to a haute couture model, that species known these days as the supermodel - stunning on the surface, undernourished and concave underneath.

Director Norman Jewison uses every trick in the book. The Thomas Crown Affair is an expensive caper that almost drowns in its own artiness, using multi-images and other pretentious film gimmicks, all of which detract from the story. Which is a shame, because it is not such a bad story.

Set and partially filmed in Boston, this is the tale of a self-made millionaire (Steve McQueen) who decides he has been part of the establishment for too long. With the help of aides who never actually meet him, McQueen arranges a brilliant bank robbery that nets millions. He pays off his assistants (among them Jack Weston) and banks the remainder, almost US$3 million, in Switzerland.

The bank's insurance company writes off the loss, then assigns its leading investigator (Faye Dunaway) to the case. Working in cahoots with police officer Paul Burke, she identifies McQueen as the obvious suspect. This was a leap of logic that made audiences groan.

Dunaway moves in on McQueen and the two recognise each other as the enemy. Then they fall in love. In one of many artsy sequences Jewison sends his camera whirring around the two of them as they grab each other after a chess game that parodies the famous Albert Finney-Joyce Redman eating sequence in Tom Jones.

Watching The Thomas Crown Affair today you can sense the era (the late 60s ) in which it was filmed. It is full of split screens; many other films of the time made the mistake of placing technique above content.

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But McQueen is charming, reads his lines well, and shows that he is not just a short actor with an interesting face. The title song, The Windmills Of Your Mind, written by Michel Legrand, won an Oscar.

ISMAIL Merchant produced The Deceivers (World, 9.30pm), but it was not one of his finest hours. It is set against the backdrop of colonial India and stars Pierce Brosnan, the new James Bond, as a mild-mannered tax collector with the British East India Company who decides to unravel the secret of a strange cult, the Thuggees.

The Thuggees are given to cold-blooded sacrifice. By the time Brosnan goes after them rumours are rife that they have already killed a million people.

STAY awake for Fool's Gold (Pearl, 1.25am), the story of Britain's biggest ever robbery, in which raiders who broke into a warehouse at Heathrow Airport thought Christmas had come early when, expecting to find GBP2 million, they found three tonnes of gold bullion worth a cool GBP26 million instead. Intrigue and betrayal follow. Among the players are Sean Bean, Trevor Byfield, Sharon Maiden and Larry Lamb.

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EVERYTHING you ever wanted to remember about the past year will be contained in either Hong Kong In Review 1994 (World, 8.30pm) or World Review 94 (Pearl, 8.30pm). It was a year over which a haze has already settled. It began with bad weather, continued with war and genocide, and ended, well, it has not ended yet. There is still time for Whisky and Soda to take a final chunk or two out of more Government House workmen.

IN 1975 Jeff Bridges took the lead in a little-known drama called Hearts Of The West (World, 1.05am), in which he played a struggling writer of westerns looking for a break. He can't get his novels published because they lack authenticity. He gets involved with criminals, accidentally runs off with their loot and falls for the voluptuous Miss Trout (Blythe Danner), who says she can help him. Donald Pleasence co-stars.

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THE Australian outback film Sunday Too Far Away (STAR Plus, 2.00am) is full of itinerant sheep-shearers, sweat-soaked days, rum-soaked nights, two-fisted punch-ups and scab labour brought in during the 1956 sheep shearers' strike. Jack Thompson is Foley, the best in the business. But he works for a cocky and arrogant farmer whose only concern is that one slip of Foley's shears and his prize ram will be good for nothing but mint sauce.

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