Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thief - Analysis of the Movie - part 1: Introduction and plot synopsis


[Image at left from the Wikipedia 'Thief (film)' page; "Thief 1981",[a] licensed under fair use via Wikipedia.]

Welcome to the analysis of the movie Thief. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through parts of the analysis. We begin with a basic description and plot synopsis of the movie:[b]

Thief is a 1981 neo-noir crime film written and directed by Michael Mann and based on the novel The Home Invaders by "Frank Hohimer" (the pen name of real-life jewel thief John Seybold). The film's cast includes James Caan, Tuesday Weld, James Belushi, Robert Prosky and Willie Nelson.

Plot Synopsis
Frank is an expert jewel thief and hard-boiled ex-convict with a set structure to his life. With a pair of successful Chicago businesses (a bar and a car dealership) as fronts for his very lucrative criminal enterprise, Frank sets out to fulfill the missing part of his dream: a family beginning with Jessie, a cashier he has begun seeing.

After taking down a major score, Frank's fence is murdered. He finds out that the man responsible is a Mr. Attaglia, a shady plating company executive for whom the fence was working. Attaglia is in possession of money that belongs to Frank, who demands it back. This leads to a face-to-face meeting with Attaglia's employer, Leo, a high-level fence and Chicago Outfit boss, who wants Frank to work for him, offering him "boxcar" profits.

Above left: Frank, an expert jewel thief. Above right: Leo, a high-level fence and Chicago Outfit boss.

Frank is reluctant at first, but wanting to make his dream come to fruition faster, he agrees to do just one job. Soon he is taking part in a large-scale West Coast diamond heist. With a little help from the paternal Leo, he is even able to purchase a baby on the black market, a son he names after his closest friend from prison, Okla (whose real name is David).

It all seems too good to be true. Frank's big payday finally comes, only for Leo to renege. An irate Frank demands his money in 24 hours or there will be consequences.

Frank drives to his car lot to meet with his friend and associate Barry, unaware that Leo's henchmen are waiting for him. Frank is knocked unconscious and Barry is shot to death. Frank awakens with Leo staring down at him, surrounded by his henchmen. Leo coldly informs Frank that he, Jessie, their child, and everything Frank owns are Leo's property.

Above left: Jessie, Frank's love interest. Above right: Barry, Frank's associate.

Leo even threatens to prostitute Jessie and kill Frank's family if Frank does not continue in his work for him. Leo tells Frank to "tighten up" and focus on his responsibilities; meanwhile, his henchmen eliminate Barry's body.

Frank goes home and orders Jessie out, saying their marriage is over. He has an associate drive her and the baby somewhere where they cannot be found.

With nothing to lose, Frank blows up their house. He proceeds to drive around doing the same to his business establishments. He then breaks into Leo's house, beating up Attaglia and shooting Leo to death. As Frank walks outside, he is confronted by Attaglia and another of Leo's men. A gunfight ensues. The final scene is of a wounded Frank walking away into the night.

a. Poster for Thief: The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, United Artists, or the publisher or creator of the film.
b. Wikipedia, 'Thief (film)'. Web, n.d. URL =

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lecter series - unified analysis - part 54: Wrapping up the analysis


Recall the discussion of Jungian psychological types in part 39 of this analysis. Top left: A scene from the beginning of The Silence of the Lambs: At the movie's beginning, Clarice Starling's psychological type is introverted feeling; as discussed in part 39, she is later 'converted' to an introverted intuitive type. Throughout the movie, she is an introvert. Top right: Hannibal Lecter is an extraverted thinking type. Above left: Ardelia Mapp displays this 'extraverted' congratulatory gesture toward Starling at the FBI graduation ceremony. Some of the key people involved in the undermining of Starling (e.g., Lecter, and Ardelia) are depicted as being more extraverted than Clarice. The Silence of the Lambs is thus, in part, an 'allegory' for how our extraverted Western society tends to work against introverts. Above right: Starling takes command of the drug bust operation in Hannibal, the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. The 'corruption' of Clarice's soul coincides with her becoming more extraverted.

(As stated in the previous post in this analysis, the fact that Ardelia is giving Clarice a congratulatory gesture at the ceremony, does not mean that she has been working on Clarice's side; she is here simply going out of her way to pretend that she has been on Clarice's side all along).

By the end of The Silence of the Lambs, Starling has become Lecter's Jungian opposite (in terms of psychological types). Also, as described earlier in this analysis, Clarice has assimilated Gumb, her 'moral opposite', with this symbolizing the Catholic Church's assimilation of evil.


Thief analysis - part 12: Representation of Abraham and Sarah


Jessie (played by Tuesday Weld) acquires a baby.

In part 7 of the analysis we observed that some of the characters in the movie are metaphorically depicted as residing in Limbo, the first circle of Dante's Inferno (Hell). In Canto IV (i.e., chapter 4) of the Inferno, Dante's guide through Hell, Virgil, mentions to him various figures from the bible's Old Testament, including Abraham, and states that they were confined to this circle until the death of Christ.[a]

Frank represents the biblical figure Abraham, and his partner, Jessie, represents Abraham's wife, Sarah, who could not have children due to the fact that she was sterile; this corresponds to Jessie not being able to have children. Frank and Jessie's 'adopted' child, whom they named David, was provided by Leo; this corresponds to God 'providing' a child, Isaac, for Abraham and Sarah (this is not to say that Leo himself represents the Christian God as such).

a. Wikipedia, 'Inferno (Dante)'. Web, n.d. URL =

Friday, March 11, 2011

2001 analysis - part 3: Bowman's experience of enlightenment-death-rebirth


Above left: David Bowman experiences enlightenment on his death-bed, as signified by the fact that he's pointing at the monolith - he has come to know the monolith's true meaning (the meaning of the monolith will be discussed later in the analysis). Above right: Just after this, Bowman dies and is then reborn. This whole sequence of events neatly encapsulates one of the movie's underlying themes, that of enlightenment-death-rebirth.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thief analysis - part 11: The hidden plot


Jessie waits for Frank at the hospital, so the two of them can see Okla. She arrived before Frank because Okla knew how to have her contacted, i.e., he already knew her prior to being 'introduced' to her by Frank in the hospital.

Recall that Jessie arrived at the hospital before Frank when they went to visit Okla (see the screen capture above); this implies that Okla knew how to have Jessie contacted. What's going on is that Okla already knew Jessie, prior to the hospital visit; in fact, Okla is involved in a scenario whereby Jessie, who cannot have a child naturally, can first obtain a male partner, Frank, and then acquire a child, all via Leo. What Leo is to get out of the deal is the 'use' of Frank, in order to make money from Frank's thefts. Jessie knows she needs a male partner, i.e., a prospective father, to look better to an adoption agency. However, since she also knows Frank is a former convict, she actually knows ahead of time that they will not qualify to adopt - that's why she suggests to Frank that they leave the agency they visit, right after Frank tells the worker there that he was in prison. She must go through the motions of going to the agency in order for things to appear normal to Frank, but in reality she knows she will ultimately have to get a baby illegally through Leo. As indicated above, from Leo's perspective, Frank is a necessary part of the whole arrangement, so that Leo will get something in return for providing Jessie with a child.

Jessie wouldn't have waited for two hours for Frank to show up at his nightclub to meet with her, if she wasn't Hell-bent on acquiring a child - note the exasperated look on her face (as shown at left) while she waits for him.

Recall that Leo at one point says to Frank that he provided him with a family - he's referring to both Jessie and the baby, not just the baby. Finally, recall that it was Jessie who suggested naming the child after Okla (whose real name was David) - this is further evidence of a pre-existing relationship between her and Okla.


Thief analysis - part 10: Okla is Frank's guardian angel


Frank pays Okla a visit.

Recall that Frank had gotten himself into serious trouble while in prison, and, as he tells the story to Jessie, we can safely conclude that he was kept from being killed during an incident that occurred while he was incarcerated (the 'Captain Morphis' incident), by some sort of miracle. The actual miracle occurred not at the point when Frank was facing Morphis, but instead later, when Frank walked out into the open prison yard thinking he was going to be killed by the other inmates, as a result of the incident. The reason this miracle came about was because Okla was acting as a guardian angel for Frank. A guardian angel is an angel assigned to protect and guide a particular person. In addition to protecting Frank, Okla acted as his guide, in that he taught Frank everything he knows about safe-cracking (recall that Frank tells Jessie this during the diner conversation).


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