Friday, May 1, 2009

Michael Caine works magic on Anybody's thin script

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2009 at 12:20 PM

click to enlarge NOW YOU SEE HIM: Clarence (Michael Caine, left) and (Edward (Bill Milner)
  • NOW YOU SEE HIM: Clarence (Michael Caine, left) and (Edward (Bill Milner)

People think of film primarily as a visual medium, so movie buffs frequently focus on their favorite images or sequences. Less often do you hear people talk about their favorite sounds in film. When I think of my favorite cinematic noises, I recall the boinging opening bars of Looney Tunes theme music, Holly Hunter's rapid-fire drawl, or the trilling theremin wails from 1950s sci-fi films.

But none do I love more than the voice of Michael Caine. In his half-century film career, he's polished his cockney so well, it's like the Stradivarius of the working-class London accent. Audiences probably recall his dignified purr of the line, "Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you kings of New England," from his Oscar-winning turn in The Cider House Rules. I prefer him blaring his vowels in high dudgeon, as in 1998's otherwise forgettable Little Voice, singing "It's Over" as a roof-rattling bellow "It's O-VAH!"

Caine may be 76 years old, but it's definitely not over for the two-time Oscar winner. A new generation knows him for his witty, seasoned turns as Alfred the butler in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies. He proves at once frail and robust in his leading role as a seedy, aging magician in Is Anybody There? Directed by John Crowley, Is Anybody There? is one of those low-budget showcases of a screen legend in his sunset years, reminiscent of Peter O'Toole's Venus from 2006. (Anybody's supporting cast even includes O'Toole's Venus partner, Leslie Phillips.)

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