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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Alfie (1966)

A footloose and fancy free womanizer (Michael Caine in an Oscar nominated performance) has no interest in a committed long term relationship. Instead, he goes from woman to woman (who he refers to as "birds"), loving them and leaving them. But as time passes, he begins to have regrets and what goes round comes round. Based on the play and novel by Bill Naughton (who also did the screenplay) and directed by Lewis Gilbert, ALIFE was startling in its sexual frankness in 1966. Seen in hindsight, the film's "moral" backbone seems a bit more preachy perhaps than it did then but it's still a strong and unfavorable look at a narcissistic individual leading a hedonistic lifestyle. The character of Alfie is reprehensible in many ways and one can see why many established actors turned the role down. Luckily, Michael Caine (in his star making part) has a roguish charm that goes a long way in making Alfie if not charming, then more than tolerable. The much admired jazz score though it did nothing for me is by Sonny Rollins. Remade unsuccessfully in 2004. With Shelley Winters, Denholm Elliott, Jane Asher, Millicent Martin, Shirley Anne Field, Eleanor Bron, Julia Foster, Murray Melvin, Graham Stark, Alfie Bass and in a heartbreaking performance, Vivien Merchant also Oscar nominated.

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