Monday, 16 April 2012

Alfie - More Than Just Jack the Lad

1966's Alfie is often depicted as typifying the happy-go-lucky, couldn't give a shit approach of the typical sixties' male - and Michael Caine, by association,. the embodiment of that dubious ideal.  On some levels this is true: Alfie's direct addresses to camera frequently serve to substantiate his image as the archetypal uncaring and self-seeking male with a horror of commitment.  His language and  tone back this up, especially the manner in which he refers to women as 'it', or 'they' rather than as individuals.

As the film progresses, however, and as Alfie's experienes - and those of the women with whom he is associated - become more complex and tragic, Alfie definitely undergoes a transformation from Jack-the-Lad to a more thoughtful and considerate human being.  He may not wish this change to be universally known; indeed, his to-camera speeches directly contradict this, but his experiences in the sanitorium (having contracted TB) with Harry Clamacraft (Alfie Bass) and Harry's wife Lily (Vivian Merchant), as well as his ungracious and ungrateful behaviour towards Annie (Jane Asher), cause him to reassess himself and vow to change the direction of his life.  The irony of the film is that Alfie's desire to settle down with Ruby (Shelley Winters) is confounded by the discovery that she is cuckolding him.  He is out Alfied by a woman, a turn of events he had not bargained for.

Alfie is something of an idiot savant: he knows what he knows, and he thinks very highly of himself, but once other people assert themselves, he is at something of a loss, despite all the swagger.  Yet he has learned something, even if he is not entirely sure what that is.  At the very least, a transformation has begun.

1 comment:

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