Imaginative story, slightly conflicted filmmaking
This feels like a serious crime movie, but plays like a comedy. Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine play against each other in a tour-de-force of bantering. Olivier is a knick-knack collecting old mystery writer, and Caine is the one who wants to marry his wife.
The setup is very much in the style of so many English mysteries - symbolic of class struggle, ordinarily mild-mannered sorts being driven past their usual limitations, and so on.
Images of various portraits, life-size animated sculptures, and various knick-knacks are continually spliced into the visual narrative. To a degree, this represents the mad and chaotic nature of what is goin on, but it also gives rise to an odd feeling of being watched. While in the end, what was being attempts makes sense, it feels somewhat sloppy to me, something that got more attention than it seemed to deserve.
We are left in doubt for some time whether and what particular crime has been committed. The concept is fairly clever, and I'll refrain from the details lest I spoil this for anyone - as most of the enjoyment of the film comes from watching it unfold.
Originally, this was a play. It shows some of its origins pretty plainly in they way the scenes are played out, focusing largely on long, two-character scenes. I'll concede this version probably beats out a stage version by the more involved use of props - and it doesn't hurt to have such skilled actors in the main roles.
And my usual rant on titles - why is this Sleuth? It's not completely inappropriate, as it correctly identifies the genre, and there is indeed some sleuthing about involved, but it's not really the focus at all. It's a bit like the close ups on these life size dolls - leading us astray. It's not a bad idea, but it's a misdirected misdirection - unnecessary and not really underscoring anything about the film. It's as if they are trying a little too hard to build up the details.
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