Alfie (1966)

Alfie (1966), directed by Lewis Gilbert.

"My understanding of women only goes as far as the pleasure. When it comes to the pain I'm like any other bloke -- I don't want to know."

In my youth this film had the reputation of a controversial sex romp with a famous theme song (which plays only in the closing credits). Not until I saw it years later did I realize how much better it is than that. It seems to be a famous picture that no one watches, with is a shame. Funny in spots, tragic in others.

Alfie is a lover, not a fighter. He claims to be a realist, just seeing life as it is. Affable, witty and live and let live, a lot of girls have a good time with him, as long as they don't expect loyalty, commitment or excessive generosity of spirit. In his asides to the viewer he tends to call his women "it", as in "It's getting all weepy now."

Sometimes he breaks his rules and becomes attached to a "bird", and when one has his baby he grows quite fond of the boy, while pretending it doesn't matter. Then health problems remind him of his mortality and another pregnancy leads to a wrenching abortion segment. So: what's it all about?

Sometimes his asides so dominate a scene that his actual dialogue, as during the doctor's exam, becomes secondary. They add a comical bar fight scene; I don't know why that keeps happening in films.

Alfie made Michael Caine a star and he tells many stories about it in his autobiography:

Remade in 2004.

quote

I could have dropped on the spot with the shock. All I was expecting to see was... Well, come to think of it, I don't rightly know what I was expecting to see. Certainly not this perfectly formed... being. I half expected it to cry out. It didn't, of course. It couldn't have done. It could never have had any life in it. I mean, not proper life of its own.

Still... it must have had some life, of course. And as it lay there, so quiet, so still... it quite touched me. And I started praying something, saying things like "God help me" and things like that, and then I starts to cry. Straight out. The tears were running down me face, all salty, like I was a kid meself.

[...]

It don't half bring it home to what you are when you see a helpless little thing like that lying in your own hands. He'd been quite perfect. And I -- I thought to meself... "You know what, Alfie? You know what you done? You murdered him."

http://watershade.net/public/alfie.jpg