In London, twenty-seven year-old hairdresser Rita decides to complete her basic education before having children as desired by her husband Denny. She joins a literature course in an open ... See full summary »
For Alfie, the only real life is sex life; only then can he kid himself he is living. Sex is not used as the working-class boy's way to 'the top'. Executive status has no appeal for Alfie. Nor has class mobility. He is quite content to stay where he is, as long as the 'birds' are in 'beautiful condition', as he assures us they are in one of the candid, over-the-shoulder asides to the camera which the film carries over from "Tom Jones". The film shows how much of the 'swinging 60's' quality of London life was a male creation, and through the dominance of the fashion photographers, a male prerogative.Written by
Utterly fresh and brilliant, and filled with moral disruption.
There are two ways to love this movie. One is the way people in 1966 did, with a certain amount of shock at the candor and callousness of the main character, and how the dealt with pregnancy and abortion. The other is how it is made, which was impressive at the time and equally so now--even more so, considering how it has aged so well. I truly "tells" a story, and Michael Caine is brilliant, subtle, chilling, and believable in the starring role of Alfie.
On the first score, there is something unsettling, really really funny, and daring about the subject--a true cad, a British young man who has his way with women but only, it seems, in the most superficial way, emotionally. You want to hate him for it, but he's so likable, and so honest, and fresh, and frankly charming to the gills, you can't help but have mixed feelings. Caine defines the role so thoroughly, in the remake, you feel Jude Law trying not to be Alfie, but be Michael Caine (and it doesn't work nearly as well).
On the second, the way the movie was made, with many long takes, and with the main character (and no one else) narrating directly into the camera, but often in the middle of real action, is uncanny and virtuosic. Everyone involved had to have been sharp as a tack to get this right, the timing and feel, the light and the deadpan acting (I saw a crack of a smile during the long clinic scene). It makes for a dry approach, in a way, and it forces detachment from the plot proper. But it draws you into Alfie's plight, and flight, and complicated character.
There are other movies made in the mid 1960s that are about the early and mid 1960s in working class London without trying to be, but this is among the best, like "Easy Rider" is clearly about the later 1960s in America. The new mores of the fresh sexual revolution are just being sorted out by cast and character and audience, almost before our eyes as we watch. It's quite remarkable, really. There's a lot of talk, and if you don't get into that pace right away you'll be doomed. But if you connect, and see the brilliance of it, you'll be blown away. Singular and special.
Notice also the terrific music by Sonny Rollins, and of course the famous title song, sung by Cher. And though Michael Caine steals the show, the rest of the cast is spot on serious and authentic. Oddly, this is roughly the same time as the recent "An Education" and it has a little echo in some ways. But oh how much more true "Alfie" is from top to bottom. This may be fiction, but it gets to what matters very much.
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