WEIRDLAND: A performance that changed my life

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A performance that changed my life

Michael Caine playing Milo Tindle in "SLEUTH" (1972).

“The notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”
-Irving Krystol

"In Joseph Mankiewicz's last movie, based on a play by Anthony Shaffer, "Sleuth", a young hairdresser who's having a liason with the wife of Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier), a snob upper-crust mystery novelist who invites Milo Tindle
to his country house, with this purpose to address the affair Milo is having in secret and to make a proposition to him.

The movie primarily consists of Caine and Olivier's ruthless battle of verbal wits. Both are brilliant. But the increíble transition experienced by Caine’s character is like a "dream come true" type, from his repellent gigolo homewrecking act to a noir "anti-detective" first class act.

Tindle alone in the movie wouldn't work nearly as well without his counterpart Wyke.
As the narcissist, mysanthrope, elitist puzzle-obsessed Wyke, Laurence Olivier is in most of the scenes on par with Caine. And the plot is simple: The film begins with businessman Milo Tindle (Michael Caine), son of Italian immigrants, visiting aristocrat novelist Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier) at his English estate. Tindle owns a hairdressing salon, and has conquered the heart of Wyke's wife. The absent wife has an omnipresence all along the film through a painting of Joanne Woodward.

Wyke shows Tindle his eccentric collection of remote actioned mechanical toys, then he reveals the low motive why he has invited to Tindle. Wyke wants him to rob his house, a collection of jewels. This way, Wyke would receive the insurance money, while Tindle can keep his new girlfriend, accustomed to a luxury style of life. Of course, Wyke is setting Tindle up, but Tindle soon learns that both can play at that game.
Playing games is what Wyke is all about. It is no wonder that he writes detective stories, in which his master sleuth character repeatedly demonstrates his superiority planning elaborated games over Tindle. But, Wyke commits the mistake of relying exclusively on his cruel games, as he thinks he is the god of all his serving toys, the puppeteer of all of his stories' characters, creating finally a monster out of his vanity. And it’s just this tight fight of intellect in the midst of a chaos of games layered where reality and fiction suddenly blur, the intellect and the fantasy destroy each other, only left unwon the steamy windows of our imagination. Caine’s character reaches unheard quotas of auto-sacrifíced working class hero. You won't be able to forget Inspector Doppler once the film is finished."
This review is my contribution to the "All about my movies" blogathon.


Emma said...

Great article! I shamefully admit that I've never seen Sleuth, though it has just made its way up to the top of my to-see list! I'm also interested in how the remake will turn out.

Anyway, thanks so much for writing this interesting piece, you're the first to have contributed to the blogathon!

Elena W said...

The pleasure has been mine, Emma. Go watch "Seuth" soon, you won't regret it!

Elena W said...

Of course, I meant "Sleuth", this damn tooth is killing me...

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen "Sleuth" either (and I can't beleive it!!)

Elena W said...

There is some incredible dialogue exchange in "Sleuth", gr77.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Germany.
Having seen this movie thirty years ago, it changed my life too. For the first it awakened my interest in movies and plays and finally ... I became a crimewriter.
SLEUTH is my all-time-favorite!

Elena W said...

Welcome to Weirdland, Mr. Kramp!
I admire crimewriters beyond imaginable!