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Watching this marvellous film again last night, I began to think about how
peculiar that a film which has so severely dated in so many respects still
manages to say something profound today. In certain respects, this film
just couldn't be done today. First of all, gender roles have changed a
great deal, and many of Alfie's "birds" simply wouldn't be plausible in a
modern film. Second of all, sex has changed so much. Back in the 80s, we
had plenty of films (usually bad ones) which took a similarly cavalier
attitude toward sex, but that's a relic of a simpler, pre-HIV world that's
But "Alfie" still manages to say something, even to a modern audience. On one hand, it's got a very funny script, and Michael Caine plays Alfie with such an infectious charm that it's impossible not to smile. But also, there's a deeper layer of meaning to the film. "I never mean to hurt anyone," Alfie says. "I know," says Harry, "but you do." Alfie ignores this lovely and rare moment of real honesty, but the audience shouldn't, because the heart of the film is right here.
Alfie himself is such a fascinating character. At first, he seems like simply a rogue, a rascal. But there's a helluva lot going on under the surface. His deep, deep insecurities, his tragic loneliness (he wouldn't see it that way, naturally), his pathological inability to have a real relationship with anyone. Especially his own son, whom he obviously loves very much.
While it's easy to see "Alfie" as a tragic story and feel sympathy for the character, it's important to hold onto the hatred. Alfie is a cruel, merciless, and heartless man. He is self-absorbed, utterly insensitive, and totally domineering. He cheerfully holds his "birds" to standards of loyalty he himself needn't bother with. He ruthlessly undermines the individuality and autonomy of everyone he is with, even when pretending to be a liberating force. Notice in his scenes with Gilda how his words sound as though he's endorsing freedom, independence, and self-determination, but the effect of those words is to keep her right under his thumb where she belongs. Alfie deserves our sympathy, yes, but he also deserves our hatred, loathing, and utter contempt.
Anyway, like the DVD box says, this is just a sweet, frothy little comedy, if you like, and it's very enjoyable as such. But, if you care to look deeper, there is so much more to behold. The tagline to "American Beauty" was "look closer", but all of its profound ideas and insights (if any) were plastered right across the screen. "Alfie" is a film which asks you to look closer, and it rewards the effort.
Directed by Lewis Gilbert. Written by Bill Naughton. Running time: 114
minutes. Classified PG.
Alfie is a fantastic example of what I would call a perfect movie: it has a message, it states it clearly, it mixes humor with poignancy, and it's highly stylistic. And did I happen to mention that Michael Caine is in it? The story of the film revolves around a selfish cad (an exceptional Caine) who takes advantage of nearly every woman he encounters and, as a result, is eventually left alone. While Alfie has some very funny moments, it is far from being a comedy: at heart, it is a grim drama about the consequences of selfishness. From the opening scene -- an overview of London at night leading to a shot of Caine and one of his mistresses attempting to copulate in a car -- to the rather dismal conclusion -- another shot of London at night with Caine pondering the meaning of life -- Alfie is directed with flair and elegance. The cinematography is outstanding and the accompanying jazz score establishes an appropriate mood. Each performance is terrific in its own way: Shelley Winters is flawless as Alfie's counterpart, and Graham Stark (a recurring star in Blake Edwards' films) turns in a great supporting role as the ethical husband of one of Alfie's lovers. The script is taut, well-written, and highly influential (Alfie's occasional monologue to the camera is a technique that has been replicated countless times in modern films). Screenwriter Bill Naughton also made the clever decision to assign no last names to any of the principal characters. The only part with a surname belongs to Alfie Bass, who portrays a hospitalized father that stands out as the only truly virtuous character in the entire picture. There are some very light and witty moments in the film, but the scenes that stand out the most are the powerful ones revolving around Viven Merchant's abortion. Director Lewis Gilbert made the wise decision to not show anything explicit, but in the process he made these scenes increasingly haunting and heart-breaking. The shot that focuses on Caine's face as his emotions melt at the sight of his unborn child is remarkably intense. Over-all, Alfie is intriguing, entertaining, and oddly touching. Its influence can be seen in practically every romantic comedy since its release (even High Fidelity owes much of its success to this gem). Alfie went on to score five Oscar nominations, including nods for the extraordinary performances of Caine and Merchant.
**** - Classic
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I only realised last night that I had not seen Alfie all the way through,
but I'm glad I did now. This was a real eye-opener, not only from a
historical point of view but also proof once again that Michael Caine is a
British treasure, and one of the screen greatest actors.
I read the script for the original play a few years ago and found that I totally disliked the character of Alfie. But seeing Caine playing the role, and although I didn't like his whole attitude to women (calling them "it"), you cannot but like him. Caine plays the cheeky chappy so well that it's no wonder women would fall for his charm.
But the true taste of the pudding is the scene after the abortion, when Alfie enters the kitchen. A truly emotional sequence that shows the true power of Caine's acting ability.
It was also an interesting study of life in 60s London. Not the swinging, hippy sixties of Carnaby Street that is so often shown in most 60s London films. And as a piece of historical social study, you can't get better than this.
Having seen most of Michael Caine's work before, it was a pleasant surprise
to see one of his first films. You can tell that it is one of his early
roles and was not made with a large budget, but, as a good film should
portray, it is quite clearly the quality of the script and the acting that
outshines the sets and other superfluous aspects.
Caine's character is inherently unlikeable, but, he exudes such a strong charisma that one warms to him gradually. The films choice of supporting actress is also well done as they are controlled by Caine's character, but not upstaged.
The ending, for me is the key point in liking Caine's character, as without spoiling the film, the final scene, set against the Thames at night, is an outstanding piece of writing and direction.
Alfie is an excellent introduction to Michael Caine's work and, for all its flaws, it remains an outstanding film.
This movie has long been one of my favorites. It is one of the few
quintessentially "60's" movies, using filming methods that were quite
unusual at the time (the direct dialogue between the main character and
the audience, for example). While its style is clearly confined to that
era, and England in particular, its subject matter is profoundly
The subjects of love and devotion, or more accurately their opposites, philandering and infidelity, are treated with a unique sensitivity in the script. Michael Caine is at once both lovable and detestable, perfectly characterizing the age-old dynamic between the need for love and the need for physical pleasure. But this is not a feel-good movie, it is a movie that explores the difficult decisions that confront a person as they mature in both life and love, and it conveys the basic feelings that are present in all human beings, regardless of outward appearances.
I would recommend this as a thought-provoking exploration of human nature.
This is one of Caines best films and proof that with the right material he
can be a very good actor. The story is based on the popular 1960's British
theme of human emotions and how the central character faces up to their
shortcomings. Alfie, the character, is a dinosaur by today's standards, but
there were, and still are men who behave in this way. The film broke new
bounds at this time, particularly with the abortion scene. It is said that
many cinema-goers walked out in disgust at this harrowing point in the film.
How times change. Denholm Elliot's short performance as the sleazy
abortionist is worth a mention here as it captures the filthiness of the
In fact all the supporting roles are excellent. As a period 1960's piece, the film is almost flawless and Sonny Rollins' jazzy soundtrack is beautiful. The ending of the film is very moving with Caine summing up his life and the arty end credits being run whilst Cher sings Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" theme tune. Watch it and your views on life will change.
I have just managed to pick this film up on DVD for a bargain price for
is a classic in any era.
The way the film is shot, Caine's acting and the music score just draw you
in to Alfie's tale.
The film does not hide from the grim consequences of Alfie's selfish life
but at the end of it you feel sorry for him as his life is really empty as
result. A Film with a message & Caine is mesmerising in the lead role.
soundtrack from Jazzman Sonny Rollins & the end theme by Burt Bacharach
sung by Cher) is a classic ballad that leaves you in deep though after
you have seen ...
This is a seriously good comedy. Michael Caine is delightfully saucy as the title character. He ought to seem a cad, and at times he is, but he takes his lumps too, and takes them in stride. The supporting cast is very effective, with especially excellent performances by Jane Asher, Shelley Winters and Millicent Martin. The camera work is also notable, and London serves as an effective backdrop. Definitely worth a look, and a reminder Michael Caine was as good then as he is now.
Alfie Elkins, that irresistible roguish Cockney character, takes us
into his confidence right at the start of this film, as he invites us,
his audience, to follow him in this fantasy filled with sex that
reflected a Mod society of London in the sixties. Alfie, by talking
directly to the camera, seems to be performing asides a character would
do in a play to emphasize a point. Some comments in here indicate they
are an annoyance, but in fact, they enhance the charm of Alfie. He is a
happy go lucky man who scores with all kinds of women, who find him,
not only attractive, but hard to forget. Alfie is not bashful in
telling us his sexual encounters with the women we get to meet.
Lewis Gilbert's 1966 film made an impact when it was released. Watching it in the DVD format, one can clearly see the film has been preserved well. It still has a crisp look and frankly, it doesn't have that "dated" look of other films of that period. Aside from some of those 60s hair styles, seen in some of the actresses, the film looks as though it was recently shot.
This is a film to relish Michael Caine in one of his best creations. As Alfie, he is never mean. He is a man who is only interested in satisfying the women he meets. This was Mr. Caine's break through film, which indicated, even then, his potential as the versatile actor one has always cherished.
The women in Alfie's life show a lot of different types. Shelley Winters is at her best with her take of Ruby, the wealthy American "bird" that loves her encounters with Alfie. Millicent Martin, seen briefly, makes a fun Siddie. Vivian Merchant is Lily, the married woman who strays when she can't resist Alfie's charms. Jane Asher as Annie is excellent. Julia Foster plays Gilda, the only one to give Alfie an heir. Eleonor Bron is seen briefly. Alfie Bass is the only actor who has any extended role in the film.
This is a film that reflects that sexual liberating era.
Alfie is a difficult film to come to terms with as it is most definately not what it seems. Its at its most base level is a movie about an arrogant womanising Jack the Lad, whose only virtue is his rogueism. However In my opinion it is an educated, witty, and ironic journey through the male ego during the sixties/seventies. Alfie is a tragic coming of age.
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