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An Extraordinary Film - Superb Acting - Which Holds Up Today,
This review is from: Alfie (Widescreen) (DVD)
London was swinging in 1966. Mod fashion and the mini skirt were in vogue, discos featured the sound of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Sean Connery starred in the latest James Bond 007 flick, drawing in crowds at the cinema, the counter culture was defining itself, the availability of medically prescribed contraceptives helped usher in the Sexual Revolution, even though Women's Lib was still a ways off - and Director Lewis Gilbert's "Alfie" was released. It turned out to be the most talked-about, controversial film of the year, launching Michael Caine as an international film star, and earning five Oscar nominations. Although "Alfie" is very much a period piece, I saw it again recently and was tremendously surprised at how well it holds up, especially in the context of its time.
Michael Caine's Alfie Elkins is the ultimate ladykiller, a sexual predator who approaches women and relationships the way a serial killer homes-in on a victim. He objectifies females, and many of his women are, indeed, victim-like in their neediness and vulnerability. This 30-something misogynistic, working-class, low-class playboy epitomizes narcissism, as he travels from "bird" to "bird," single women and married alike, without responsibility or care, and without malice. And then he moves on to his next conquest. Michael Caine is superb and very believable as the reckless lover with the Cockney accent. His hard-core arrogance and brutal honesty, (with his monologues to the audience), are chilling and, at times, funny - but we're talking about very dark humor. This is a cold and distant man. Not to get too deep into psychology here, but Michael Caine is able to bring the depth of a damaged person to his outwardly cool cad of a character.
The talented Mr. Caine couldn't pull-off this performance alone, however, so credit must be given to his supporting cast. Caine's counterparts are extremely credible, even by today's much more feminist and politically correct standards. These women are not Playboy Bunny types. A few of them are almost plain, and there is no cleavage except for the abundance of Shelly Winters.' Gilda (Julia Foster), is the working class woman, desperately in love with Alfie, who bears him a son out of wedlock. Although he states from the start that the baby is not his problem, he shows more affection to the child than he does to all his women combined. Vivien Merchant is excellent as Lily, the drab, lonely, married woman whom Alfie seduces and impregnates. She winds up having an abortion and, I must say, that the scenes surrounding this traumatic event are shocking in their emotional intensity, even in today's world. Annie, (Jane Asher) is the forlorn hitchhiker Alfie picks up and takes home to be his house maid, among other services. He winds up referring to her as "it." Shelly Winters is Ruby the vulgar older woman who dumps Alfie for a younger man.
I watched a double feature of this 1966 version of "Alfie" with Michael Caine, and Alfie, 2005 with Jude Law. I was curious to compare the two movies. The only comment I will make here, because I believe it is pertinent, is that although I like Jude Law as an actor, the remake is nowhere near as effective as the original - which I highly recommend.