Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alfie - Lewis Gilbert (1966) & Charles Shyer (2004)

This is the first time that I'll review two movies simultaneously.

Both versions of Alfie tell the story of a British womanizer (1966 Alfie lives in London; 2004 Alfie lives in NYC) who, at the end, discovers himself empty and alone. 

It's obvious that the movies are different. But they also tell us how our society has evolved: how the concept of manhood has changed, how the film industry depicts the working class, and what we think about abortion. In order to summarize the similarities and differences between the two, I'll use one of these tables that technocrats and business people use to conceptualize things. That should make this blog look serious, or something like that.

Alfie 1966
Alfie 2004
Does Alfie treat women like shit once he gets tired of them?
Yes, all the time. I doubt any script written today would contain Alfie’s offensive remarks. The director and the studio would be sued immediately by some kind of feminist NGO.
Only after a while, and with politeness.
Is Alfie a working class guy?
Yes, though he lives in a nice studio and can afford expensive clothes (he even mentions his Gucci shoes, Hugo Boss suit, and stuff like that)
Is Alfie obsessed with his dressing?
Not really. He likes to look decent.
Yes. Completely
Are all women of the movie ridiculously beautiful?
No. Some are OK, one is actually ugly (the one who has an abortion, meaningfully –she appears without make-up all the time), and only one is outstanding.
Yes. Alfie’s World is full of glamour, champagne, and partying.
How’s the subject of abortion dealt with in the movie?
The woman has an illegal abortion in Alfie’s house. Alfie can see the fetus in his kitchen, and that’s when he decides to change.
Alfie leaves the girl in a clinic (it’s not clear whether the place is legal or not). At the very end, she decides to keep the baby.
Does Alfie have any close friends?
Not really. He had one while at the hospital and he ended up sleeping with his wife. But no, Alfie’s a loner.
Yes. And he betrays all of them. Alfie 2004 is about a womanizer as much as it is about a guy who betrays his friends.
How’s the subject of children born out of marriage dealt with in the movie?
The movie hints that having children out of marriage is bad for everyone involved: dad, mom, and kid.
Children? What are children? And where’s my champagne?
Is there any morale or message at the end?
Yes: acts have consequences. Alfie loses his child, forces a woman to have an illegal abortion (he pays for it, though), and will probably die of tuberculosis.
Yes: being a womanizer who only cares about expensive clothes is OK when you’re in your late 20s - early 30s

Alfie 1966 tries to give messages, whereas the 2004 version is about having a good time. I don’t mean this in a pejorative way. Alfie 2004 is actually a really entertaining movie, and the soundtrack is really good. But the differences between the two movies say something about how Western societies have changed, and what their collective priorities are.

Here’s the trailer for the 1966 movie (you can actually see the movie for free in Youtube starting here).

And here’s the trailer of the 2004 version:

And last but not least, "Old Habits Die Hard", the 2004 main song:

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