Saturday, August 22, 2009

1966 - Alfie

What is it about spotting a celebrity in public that is so darn fascinating? It's a bit like seeing an animal in the wild. You don't want him to know he's been spotted for fear he may crawl back into his burrow. So, when you see him from a distance approaching, you surreptitiously elbow your wife and point your nose in his general direction, giggling like a schoolgirl. And yet, Greg Proops is just a person, like any other. He's not a god. But somehow, seeing him casually walking down the street, as I did yesterday, is still a minor thrill. I mean, hey, I've seen that guy on television!

At the risk of revealing my geekishness, I've had several such thrills over the years, unsuccessfully photographing Joe Pantoliano at the baggage carousel, narrowly avoiding injury from Meryl Streep's umbrella, accidentally pushing my wife into Alan Rickman, freezing F. Murray Abraham's fingers with my cold handshake, being called a "tit man" by Toni Collette. Good times, good times.

Next on 1966's nominee list is...

Lewis Gilbert
Bill Naughton
(based on his stage play)
Michael Caine, Shelley Winters, Millicent Martin, Vivien Merchant, Denholm Elliott
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
0 wins

Alfie is one of the most abhorrent mysogynists you're likely to encounter. He not only mistreats women romantically, but also calls them "it" rather than "she", all the while proclaiming he only wants to make them happy. Which is somewhat misguided since none of the women he dallies with during the course of the film seem to be all that happy with him. Except for one. Ruby is the female version of Alfie, and the only woman with which he could actually see himself settling down. But Alfie leaves a trail of women behind, creating mess after mess, until he finally realises he's had enough of moving around.

It's a sprawling story with many subplots that all seem to have the same resolution - Alfie leaves. And it's this scattered nature that prevents the film from being something really engaging. Don't get me wrong, there are some downright powerful scenes in amongst the light-heartedness, but because we keep swapping from one girl's story to another, there's never any time to settle. But perhaps that's the point. Alfie never has time to settle, either.

Michael Caine is fantastic in the title role, directly addressing the camera to narrate his inner thoughts. (A few times, it occurred to me how similar he is to Jude Law, who, almost forty years later, recreated the role in the remake.) Shelley Winters stands out as Ruby, who, whilst embracing her curves (pictured), Alfie refers to as being in "lovely condition". And Denholm Elliott makes a superb but brief appearance as a somewhat grumpy abortion doctor.

One last thing: why is it, in movies, that when two people start fighting in a bar, it immediately erupts into an all-in brawl? I mean, were all the other patrons in the establishment just waiting for an excuse to throw bottles at the bartender and smack their drinking buddies over the head with a chair? Their violence is just so confusingly indiscriminate.

Anyway, despite it's sprawling nature, Alfie is a wonderful film, full of humour and pathos. Another film worthy of its Best Picture nomination.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff Matty. Remind me to tell you about the time Megan Mullally pinched my ass or when David Schmimmer squashed a bee in front of me!