The Wolf Speaks
C. Rocklein | 05/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What's it all about? For who, is the question. Caine plays the architypical tomcat who takes the yearning for sexual conquest and utter freedom from commitment to it's farthest yet most logical conclusion in this very entertaining drama/comedy that has the unique feature of having a main character often directly address the viewers even as other characters on the screen casually go about their business right next to him. It's intriguing work and is nothing if not a philosophical treatise on the nature of man's conflict between his drive for sexual play and true intimacy. In this day of PC and careful where you tread in dealing with women, this movie breaks all the rules by modern standards (and probably the standards of 40 years ago when it was made, although it could be argued that this is very much a product of the 'sexual revolution'). It's frankness and even coldness have the effect of causing one to question his/her own morality. This movie does not preach but it certainly leaves one with something to think about, or perhaps it reaffirms one's own conclusions to some extent on the topic of "what it's all about". For exposing an eternal dilemma and being very entertaining into the bargain, I give this movie 5 stars without hesitation. If however you like your stories morally sanitized, or preachy, this may not be the film for you."
An unforgettable and quite beautiful look at the soul of a m
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 12/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have not seen the Jude Law vehicle that brought this film to my attention. I never really had any desire to. I like Law, but the remake looked rather stale (and the reviews didn't help) so I stayed away. HOWEVER, I didn't even know that this film existed until trailers for that remake started popping up so I thank them for that. I researched this Caine vehicle shortly thereafter and have since purchased it and relish in it on many occasions.
It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me mad; it makes me all sorts of everything.
`Alfie' tells the story of, you guessed it, Alfie, a womanizer who relishes in a life of leisure. He drifts aimlessly from one woman to another, treating them horribly and yet they never leave him because he is so, well, charming. The film really takes the most pivotal chunk of Alfie's life and serves it to the audience. In this `chunk' we see Alfie become a father, squander that opportunity, get sick, betray a friend by messing around with his emotionally fragile wife, seek out an abortionist, fall for an older woman (who proves to be his equal) and finally coming to a certain understanding of his own state and where he needs to strive to be.
The film is a comedy (not sure why the Globes considered it a Drama) but it has a very mature and dramatic tone to it. There are some mature themes (like the ones I just mentioned) that make this film so much more than just a meaningless comedy about debauchery.
And then there is Michael Caine.
This year was very rich in the best actor category, but for me this year was all about Caine. His riveting portrayal of a charismatic yet emotionally stunted man was just spot-on perfection. I love the repartee he has with the audience (he spends a great chuck of time conversing with you directly) and the way he never loses his character's grounding. He has the comedic wit down pat, the sarcastic egotism down pat, the emotionally restricted development down pat, not to mention the devastating aftermath of shattered realizations down pat (that scene, in the kitchen, hand over mouth...O.M.G.). It is a perfectly executed and completely well-rounded performance.
The supporting cast (that slew of seductive women) is also very well used here. I'm shocked that Julia Foster (who would win my supporting actress award this year) was not singled out. I know that Merchant had the weightier role, but Foster was just astonishingly good as the mother of Alfie's child. She perfectly matched Caine every step of the way. Shelly Winters was also quite effective (I just love her) as the seductive Ruby. In fact, everyone here is just wonderful and they all completely understand and develop their roles in ways that elevate this movie beautifully, beings that each character adds a layer or varying facet to this films overall composition.
In the end, SEE THIS MOVIE. It is a multi-layered dramedy that is a bag of mixed emotions complete with stellar performances and a genuinely engaging, original and memorable script."
Sex in the City
Thomas Aquinas | Worcester, MA | 02/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the late 1960s, a cultural critic made the following prediction regarding the direction of male/female relationships in the age of The Pill. "First consider how easily... [birth control]... could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings--and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation--need incentives to keep the moral law... Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."
Alfie does nothing but reduce women to mere instruments for the satisfaction of his own desires. His lack of consideration for his partners' well-being could be breathtakingly cruel. Alfie seduces the wife of a hospitalized man, a man who lives for his wife's occasional visits. Alfie leaves the same woman alone, and in extreme physical and emotional pain, after she undergoes the illegal abortion of his own child. This extreme callousness was not caused by the The Pill, but was made possible by The Pill, a chemical which was approved as an oral contraceptive in Britain in 1962, four years prior to the making of this movie. This correlation is not coincidental. While evil and selfishness pre-date the Sixties' sexual revolution, widespread, and culturally-accepted promiscuity, did not.
It is possible to argue that Alfie didn't use The Pill, since two of his conquests became pregnant. But this is improbable, since Alfie was nothing if not self-centered, and he certainly did not want to bear the responsibilities of fatherhood (as evidenced by the abortion). It is far more likely that these pregnancies were "accidents."
But what explains Alfie's inhumanity and cruelty? Aside from The Fall, one can view Alfie as the product of a post-Christian society, a society in the early stages of moral decay. While both men and women here have justly judged Alfie to be a vile misogynist (and misanthropist -he doesn't hesitate to steal the girlfriend of a friend), how many people here can honestly say that they are equally appalled by the promiscuity and vacuity of the women portrayed in "Sex in the City"? Is there any difference? Certainly not in the behavior of the main characters. To quote a Doobie Brother's album title, "What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits." The only, and enormously important difference between the two dramas, is that "Alfie" presents the other side of the "Sex in the City" story --a very dark side-- but a very real side, and, sadly, the dominant side. It is this adherence to truth that sets "Alfie" apart from most sex farces, and it is what makes "Alfie" the canary in the coal mine regarding the on-rushing sexual revolution.
If you haven't guessed already, the "cultural critic" noted above, was Pope Paul VI, cited from the almost universally reviled encyclical, "Humanae Vitae (On Human Life)." Perhaps we should have listened.