Monday, March 20, 2017

Alfie (1966)

Year 9, Day 79 - 3/20/17 - Movie #2,573

BEFORE: I got inspired by last night's film about those road-trips in France, and today I started planning my annual San Diego Comic-Con trip for real, locking down both my flight (non-stop, that's how I roll) and my AirBnb reservation.  Only a newbie still books hotels for Comic-Con - they're crowded with loud, rowdy (shudder) other people.  Don't they know they can get a private room in someone else's apartment for a fair price that's just a 20-minute trolley ride from the convention center?  I mean, come on, get with the program...after a day in a convention center full of nerds, why would I want to spend the night in a hotel, surrounded by more of them?

Eleanor Bron carries over from "Two For the Road", where she played the American girlfriend, and tonight she plays Alfie's doctor.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Alfie" (2004) (Movie #2,339)

THE PLOT: An unrepentant ladies' man gradually begins to understand the consequences of his lifestyle.

AFTER: This January 1, I implemented a new rule, that will allow me to link directly between two movies that feature the same character, even if played by different actors.  Had that rule been in place last year, I could have linked between the two "Alfie" movies, but it wasn't, so I didn't.  I still got there anyway, and now I've got 5 more Michael Caine films to follow this one.  I love actors like Caine, or, say, Donald Sutherland, who have had such long careers that I can use them to link between movies from the 1960's (hard to believe, but this film is now FIFTY years old...) and more current ones.  Yes, I'm headed back to the present, but I just need to make a few more stops first.

But my timing couldn't be better, when you think about it - even if this is the last official film in my romance chain for this year.  For one thing, I started it way back in the last days of February with a few films about infidelity - "Dirty Grandpa" and "Sleeping With Other People", and now I'm ending it with two films on a similar topic.  Plus, today is the first day of spring, and that famous saying is that spring is when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love.

But Alfie's more of a "love 'em and leave 'em" type, and I'm not exactly sure why that makes him someone to build a film around.  Is he a hero?  An anti-hero?  A terrible role model?  A moral lesson?  I'm left wondering what purpose the story of Alfie serves.  Since he seems to believe that all women are put on earth for his pleasure, his attitude seems antiquated at best.  But again, this was 50 years ago, and I'd like to think that as a society we've moved well beyond what Alfie represents.

Even when his regular "bird" gets no monthly visit from her "old friend" (that means she's pregnant) Alfie has a definite limit regarding how far he can mature.  He certainly can't consider marriage, and even though he's there for the baby's delivery (OK, not really there, he showed up the next day...) he can't wait to find an excuse to leave his girl and not come back.  It seems he'd rather watch her new husband raise his son than step up and do the right thing himself.

To be fair, Alfie's got a good thing going, meeting up with various married women and getting the car windows all steamed up - another woman takes care of his corns, as long as he takes care of her in return, and he's running a number of profitable scams while working as a chauffeur.  But it's only the pleasurable part of relationships that he's accustomed to, he always manages to avoid the pain and commitment.  Finally the tables are turned on him when he realizes that one of his older women has another man younger than him, and therefore he's no longer as young as he used to be.  Perhaps that's the "empathy" that Hepburn's character was talking about in "Funny Face"?

The famous song asks "What's it all about, Alfie?" and I'm not sure that by the end I was any closer to finding an answer, because the final message is a bit unclear, and the symbolism of the stray dog was maybe a bit too on-the-nose.

Also starring Michael Caine (last seen in "Kingsman: The Secret Service"), Shelley Winters (last seen in "Harper"), Millicent Martin, Julia Foster, Jane Asher (last seen in "The Masque of the Red Death"), Shirley Anne Field, Vivien Merchant (last seen in "Frenzy"), Denholm Elliott (last seen in "A Bridge Too Far"), Alfie Bass (last seen in "Stage Fright"), Murray Melvin (last seen in "Barry Lyndon"), Graham Stark, Sydney Tafler (last seen in "The Spy Who Loved Me").

RATING: 5 out of 10 steak and kidney pies

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