Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Wicked Games: For Movie Men of a Certain Age, Relationships Can Be a Tricky Thing

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Wicked Games: For Movie Men of a Certain Age, Relationships Can Be a Tricky Thing

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

SLEUTH DIRECTED BY Kenneth Branagh STARRING Michael Caine and Jude Law STUDIO Sony Pictures classics

LAGERFELD CONFIDENTIAL DIRECTED BY Rodolphe Marconi STARRING Karl Lagerfeld STUDIO Koch Lorber Films

THE TWO MEN IN SLEUTH ARE fighting over a woman, though we never actually meet her--a directorial decision retained from the 1972 film this Michael Caine-Jude Law pas de deux is based on. In the original, the central woman's absence was fitting. After all, this was a movie based around two men playing games with each other, so why would the film show us more of its cards than it had to? It was only one of Sleuth's quirky conceits. But the remake leaches the original of its whimsy and injects it instead with icy homoeroticism. The two men may still be at odds over a woman, but now she never shows up because she'd simply be in the way.

Sleuth begins with wealthy novelist Andrew Wyke (Caine) welcoming Milo Tindle (Law) into his forbidding mansion. Tindle has run off with Wyke's wife and wants the older man to consent to a divorce--but Wyke isn't about to give up something so valuable without a fight. His home is designed not to invite but to repel; the place resembles a haunted house, and the novelist uses this sinister setting to devise a game that will scare Tindle to death. Each line of dialogue unveils a barbed test as Tindle attempts to prove he's a worthy partner--both for the older man's ex-wife and for his clever games.

Playwright Harold Pinter adapted the original Anthony Shaffer script, and his strychnine-laced sensibility is at odds with the plot twists he's forced to retain. The 1972 film, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, had some implausible setups that worked because the film was outlandish to begin with. But this version, directed by Kenneth Branagh, is so boiled down that its twists seem awkward and exposed. Still, Pinter manages one intriguing contribution: a gay subtext that, as the film progresses, becomes more and more explicit. At times the air is so loaded between Caine (who played Tindle in the original) and Law that it seems whichever man comes out on top will continue to retain that position in the bedroom. …

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