Alfie – 1966 | 114mins | Drama, Comedy | Colour
Alfie is a British production starring Michael Caine as the title character, a selfish skirt-chaser who only begins to question his values at film’s end. Alfie is an underrated film with an excellent script by Bill Naughton, who also wrote the play. The soundtrack is also outstanding, featuring jazz arrangements by Sonny Rollins and the title song, which comes at the film’s end (as are all the credits) and is performed by Cher. I also liked the casting, the cinematography, and the costumes. While Alfie did not win any Academy Awards, it was nominated for a slew of them. Best Picture, Best Actor (Caine), Best Supporting Actress (Vivien Merchant) and Best Writing. It won the 1967 Golden Globe for Best English-Language Foreign Film.
Caine’s character dominates the film. The women come and go in his life. While he needs their love and companionship, they are replaceable objects to him. He refers to a woman in the third person, as �it� or �bird�. He prevents having an emotional attachment to a woman by not considering her as a person. His character is contrasted against that of romantic rival Humphrey (Graham Stark) whose love is permanent and unconditional. But Alfie is not without feelings. He can feel sorry for himself, of course, but also shows love for his out-of-wedlock son Malcolm, sympathy for a sickly man in a sanatorium, and remorse towards his aborted foetus.
Caine talks to the camera incessantly, often while in the middle of a conversation with others, who take no notice. The camera becomes Caine’s best friend and confidant, and allows him to present his train of thought. While films like Tom Jones have characters looking directly at the camera, and speaking, I know of no other film, one-man plays notwithstanding, that have used this technique as much and as successfully.
Alfie has a medical examination that goes on for at least ten minutes, talking to the camera all the while. A doctor keeps asking him pointed questions, and Alfie is clueless that his health is clearly in danger. His character seems to completely lack introspection early in the film, and develops only limited self-awareness as the story progresses. Look for Shelly Winters and Denholm Elliot in small roles. Winters is radiant and colourful, as usual. Jane Asher also features as one of Alfie’s girlfriends.
Review� Brian Koller.
Lewis Gilbert: Director
John Gilbert: Associae Producer
William P Cartlidge: Asst Director
Otto Heller: Cinematography
Jack Dagemais: Costume Design
Thelma Connell: Editing
Betty Glasow: Make-Up Artist
Freddie Williamson: Make-Up Artist
Burt Bacharach: Music and Lyrics
Sonny Rollins: Music and Lyrics
Lewis Gilbert: Producer
Peter Mullins: Production Design
Bill Naughton: Script