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Alfie (1966)

     I knew nothing of 1966’s Alfie going into it other than Michael Caine was the lead. I was instantly, however, drawing comparisons to 1963’s Tom Jones. Both films are about young playboys — one from current times the other during the 18th century. Both movies paint a portrait of a man whose libido and good looks result in an endless line of lovers, but the differences between the two are stark.

     I found Tom Jones to be a fun movie about a man who just loves sex and women, whereas the Alfie character absolutely disrespects women every step of the way. Caine addresses the camera/audience during sidebars throughout the film (a fun device) and refers to women as “birds” and “it.” He carries on multiple relationships at once  and refuses to settle down even after fathering a child. Alfie remains in the boy’s (and woman’s) life for a number of years until the chick decides to marry a man who has loved her for even longer. Alfie bows out and makes references several times later in the movie about “a kid he once knew” and clearly has emotional misgivings about leaving the boy but never attempts to re-enter his son’s life.

     Whereas Tom Jones has the eating-has-never-been-more-erotic scene, Alfie has a disturbing abortion incident. Upon impregnating a married woman, the duo naturally turn to an abortion performed quietly at Alfie’s apartment. Our protagonist then leaves the woman after the abortion is induced and returns later to find her frail and warning him against entering the kitchen. The man gets upset to the point of tears, and although we do not see what he has discovered, he later tells a friend he did not expect to see a “perfectly formed being.”

     If the picture was not depressing up to this point, it certainly turns downhill and almost feels like a cautionary pro-life tale. Alfie is deservedly alone at the end of the film telling the camera that although he has had a good time bedding all these women, he does not have his peace of mind. I do not find “peace of mind” to be a particularly grand moral to the story. The TCM page for this movie describes the character as “refusing to grow up until tragedy strikes.” Although Caine’s character does go looking for a particular lover to settle down with, I am not convinced the man has grown an inch. His last interaction with a female is to try to entice a woman he stood up long ago to reconsider him for a meet-up.

     Whereas I found myself thoroughly liking Albert Finney‘s Tom Jones for having such a grand time in his adventures with women, Alfie is utterly pathetic by film’s end. I am not convinced the character has learned a lesson from his exploits or has any intention of changing. He might be depressed by but I am sure he will drown his sorrows in some woman’s bed.


One Response

  1. Excellent analysis. The picture is mainly known for Caine’s first serious demonstration of his acting ability. Like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, you only need to see this thing once.

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