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The Thomas Crown Affair - Step 1: Be Attractive

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Everyone loves a good heist movie, especially when the leading man is a hunk. But for The Thomas Crown Affair,  the rules of realistic theft do not apply when you’re devastatingly handsome.

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Sure it’s an intriguing fast-paced art heist, just don’t look too closely or think too hard about the actual plausibility of the thefts.

This 1999 remake opens as billionaire Thomas Crown, played by Pierce Brosnan, steals a 100 million dollar Monet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As the police investigate, insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) is quick to catch on to Crown’s scheme, fall under his charming spell, and their cat and mouse game evolves into romance as the investigation unfolds. 

It takes Banning all of two seconds to go completely gaga for Crown, but then again, who can resist that sexy accent? She’s clearly smitten and quickly throws caution to the wind as she’s caught up in his exciting and luxurious lifestyle.

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San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight by Claude Monet

This is the painting stolen by Crown that sets everything in motion. Monet painted other similar paintings, inspired by the sunsets he saw in Venice with his wife. After staring at this painting long enough it just looks like a crayon box threw up over the whole thing. The original painting can be seen at the National Museum Cardiff, but don’t try to make off with it!

San Giorgio Maggiore is a little too remarkably resilient throughout the movie. 

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When Crown steals it from the museum, he clearly has to break the wooden frame in order for him to fit it in his briefcase.

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Yet when he removes it from the briefcase at home, the frame is completely intact.

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The Artist’s Garden at Eragny by Camille Pissarro

In light of the stolen Monet, Crown donates this beautiful Pissarro to the Met. This particular painting is loaned because “it seemed to fit the space.” The museum just accepts the loaner blindly from the suave Crown without so much as a quick inspection of the painting.

[Spoiler] In order to place the Monet back in the museum incognito, Crown has the Pissarro painted over it. In the final museum scene, a fire alarm is set off and the sprinkler system, one that would be a terrible idea in a museum, is triggered. Water pours over the painting, washing away The Artist’s Garden at Eragny and magically revealing San Giorgio Maggiore.

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The movie completely skips over the irreversible damage that would have been caused or the fact that this would be hard evidence that Crown had the Monet in his possession. Instead, Banning quips that the painting has been returned, case closed, and runs off to find her sticky-fingered lover. 

Other Impressionist works from famous artists make an appearance in the film as well. 

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Noon: Rest from Work (after Millet) by Vincent van Gogh

Crown’s favorite painting in the Impressionist wing is one he refers to as “my haystacks.”

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Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil by Edouard Manet

On their first date Banning tells Crown that this is her favorite painting and Crown flirts with her saying, “You want me to get that for you?” He eventually makes quite the romantic gesture when he steals the painting and gifts it to her in one of the final scenes. This particular heist is not documented in the film, the audience is just supposed to believe he used his James Bond skills to steal it.

Several of Monet’s Water Lilies can be seen in the background for only a few moments. A more popular choice by far, but a little large to carry out the front door.

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Son of Man by René Magritte

[Spoiler Alert] The infamous painting of a man in a bowler hat with a green apple over his face, Rene Magritte’s “Son of Man,” is a recurring theme in the film.

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Its first appearance is in an ad for a Magritte exhibit.

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Again in Crown’s home office after he steals the Monet …

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and again at the museum when he takes Banning back for a date.

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The culmination of these clues comes towards the end of the movie when Crown hires dozens of men wearing bowler hats to flood the museum, giving him cover to return the original stolen artwork. 

In the end, Crown gets away completely scot-free, enabling him to surprise his broken hearted love 30,000 feet in the air. We’d be more skeptical of him if he wasn’t so dang charming.

By Kimber Rivadeneira

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Kimber Rivadeneira

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