Classic of the Week: Alfie (1966)

 

Alfie is a 1966 British romantic comedy drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert. It is an adaptation by Bill Naughton of his own play of the same name. It says Michael Caine. The film tells the story of a young womanizing man who lives a self centered life, for own enjoyment, until things force him to ask himself about his selfishness, loneliness and his priorities. He cheats on numerous women through the film, treats them with disrespect and calls them each “It.” He uses them purely for sex and private occasions. The Film breaks the forth wall with Alfie talking directly at the camera and arguing about his actions.

This was the first film to receive the “suggest for mature audiences” rating in the United States by the Motion Picture Association of America, which turned into PG or “Parental Guidance.”

Alfie Elkins is a good looking Cockney chauffeur that enjoys women just a little too much, but refuses commitment to all of them. He has an affair with a married woman, gets his girlfriend pregnant, but refuses to marry her and bans him from seeing their son after he is born. Alfie becomes attached to his son, but his refusal to marry his son’s mother Gilda, causes her to break up with him and marry an older man named Humphrey, a bus conductor who is willing to call Malcolm his own son.

After spending a period of time at a rehabilitation house for tubular shadows on his lugs, depressed he becomes friends with another patient, Harry and his wife Lily. He then begins an affair with her while her husband is away, after be released from the center. Drives her home and has a one night stand.

Later, Alfie stops and picks up Annie, a young hitchhiker, who wants to turn her life around in London and moves in with him. She is still in love with a man she left behind. Shen ends up doing all his chores. He gets mad and kicks her out, but the regrets it. Around the same time, Lily informs him that she is pregnant from the one night stand and she plans on having an illegal abortion.

He encounters many misfortunes like these throughout the entire film. He leaves a woman, finds another, over and over, gets two pregnant, leaves both and finds he is in love with one woman, only to find out she has been seeing a younger man. After all the women abandon Alfie, he left wonder about his life decisions.

This was a very adult film for time period and certainly for the “suggested for mature audiences” classification, although it still has a PG rating today, much like other that should be PG-13 like The Graduate and Annie Hall, but that was before the birth of PG-13. They aren’t too mature for an adult rating, but certainly for a family type rating. Lots of adult subjects throughout the film from, affairs, sex, abortion, sleeping around, drinking , smoking and mild violence. So this is certainly not a film for young children.

Michael Caine is outstanding as Allie Elkins, far better than Jude Law in the 2004 remake (although that version is far more adult). His cockney accent and and how he portrays all the main female actresses are great to, all unique but all lead on by Alfie.

This is certainly not a date movie, because the lead character doesn’t find true. He sleeps around because he can’t commit to one woman. Unlike in The Graduate, where even though Benjamin Braddock has an affair with a much older married woman, he gets forgiven and gets love in the end. This one doesn’t start or end happily. Both films have excellent soundtracks, this one being jazz musician Sonny Rollins and the theme sung by Cher in the US version and Millicent Martin in the UK release. Cilla Black and Dionne Warwick also recorded the song right after Cher did.

Sure a film about a womanizing young man may not sound like a good motion picture, but Lewis Gilbert directed this story so well, making it both pleasant and unpleasant, with sexy jazz music and sad theme song and beautiful London. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but more sassy and tongue in cheek humor, some that only people that watch a lot of British stuff or just Brits may get, since Caine talks in a cockney accent. This not just one of the best British films, but best ever. Clever and fantastic. I say watch this one first before you watch the remake. 13 & up 4.5/5