Presentation on theme: "FS3:SWINGING LONDON ALFIE Released in the summer of 1966, the original Alfie was a huge hit that launched Michael Caines career, and has gone down as one."— Presentation transcript:
FS3:SWINGING LONDON ALFIE Released in the summer of 1966, the original Alfie was a huge hit that launched Michael Caines career, and has gone down as one of the key films of that era. The title track, Alfie, performed by Cilla Black nonetheless, was a no 1 hit and the film was subsequently nominated for 5 Oscars.
Production Context Based on a very successful play by playwright Bill Naughton, who also wrote the screenplay fro the film, Michael Caine was a relative unknown when cast. Several well-known actors (including Laurence Harvey, James Booth and Anthony Newley) turned down the title role due to the then taboo subject matter of abortion. Despite having played "Alfie" on Broadway, Terence Stamp categorically declined to reprise the role on film, thus giving his good friend and then roommate Michael Caine the breakthrough role of his career. Laurence HarveyJames BoothAnthony NewleyTerence StampMichael Caine
Production Context Lewis Gilbert was an experienced and safe director, who was part of an older generation than some of the other directors working at the time. He subsequently directed several Bond films as well as Educating Rita, which in 1983 finally won Caine his Oscar, after several nominations. In other words, though able and experienced, he wasnt known for being particularly radical or for having a distinctive style.
Context By 1966, when the film was released, the biggest changes of the 60s were already firmly under way. Post-war, 50 attitudes towards sex, class and culture had all began to shift inexorably. So too did the austerity of that period, with an increased consumerism achievable through higher employment and consequent disposable incomes. This came to be known as the Permissive Society.
Permissive Society The rate of change, especially amongst the young, was rapid. This led to a confusion in attitudes towards a society in which everything was a go. Though most embraced the increased freedoms, some were concerned as to what the cultural fallout might be: What was being lost while all these changes were taking place? These concerns were understandably prevalent amongst the older generation.
Ambivalence Despite its status as a key text of the Swinging London era, Alfie is actually fairly ambivalent about the period. The film is restrained in its depiction of Alfies rampant promiscuity, neither glamorising nor condemning his actions. The same can be said of its representations of London, which are far from glamorous. Why the ambivalence? Is it for narrative reasons or a clue to the films messages and values?
Macro-Narrative Alfie follows a fairly conventional, linear narrative. There is a circularity in which the initial equilibrium and the resolution (new equilibrium) take place in similar locations and with the same woman present, but with different outcomes. At the start, Alfie was confident, cocky and in control but at the end he has lost his assuredness, making him less desirable, even pitiable to the woman. He is confused and alone when he asks himself the question: Whats it all about then? The implication is that he hasnt really learnt his lesson. Even though he has made some kind of progress.
Macro-Narrative The new eq at the resolution is worse than the initial one. This may be to suggest that As kind of existence is destined to leave one alone and empty; that his irrational fear of commitment will lead him into a solitary existence even more terrifying. Is this his comeuppance? Is he being punished for his sins, or is he merely one of the many victims of the permissive society? Either way, the resolution has moralistic undertones.
Micro As mentioned earlier, the director does not bring with him a particular vision, so the resultant mise-en-scene is relatively conventional. One stylistic feature that is original, is Alfies addressing of the camera. This is known as breaking the fourth wall and is usually avoided at all costs as it makes the audience aware of the film artifice, the film as something made up, thus breaking the suspension of disbelief.
Addressing the camera This device has two main effects on the audience: It allows privileged access to the characters thoughts and feelings, which, in this case, is decidedly unwelcome. Being so close to a character so clearly unable to either comprehend his own emotions or even communicate with others, is uncomfortable. It makes it impossible to distance ourselves from the character, making us complicit in his actions, as if we were willing assistants. We cannot stand back and evaluate him easily.
Messages and Values: People-Alfie No matter what the spectator feels about the protagonist,there is no doubt that great effort has been taken in fully developing his character. He is difficult to define in simple terms, defying easy categorisation and resisting any stereotypical assumptions. Some of his actions are despicable, but, after watching the film, it is difficult to hate or despise him. He is not a stereotype.
Alfie: Psychological The style of the film lays bare a characters psychological makeup. Alfie constantly reassures the audience that he knows what he is doing at all times. Indeed, he seems to have a rule for every occasion, imparting his wisdoms generously and with conviction. But as the film progresses, a developing disparity between his confessions to camera, and his actions in front of it, exposes his rules as forms of self-justification.
Alfie: Psychological The truth seems to be that all Alfies rules are deigned to keep him from getting close to anyone, commiting to any relationship or even telling anyone what hes feeling, including the audience. His confessions contain truths, but sound like the desperate bravado of a lothario losing his way.
Alfie: Psychological This can most clearly seen in the scenes where he tells us how he grows fond of his child, yet acts as if he is completely indifferent. He walks out on the opportunity of raising his son the minute the mother asks him to commit to being a proper father. The emotional commitment would mean the possibility of getting hurt and this is something he cannot risk.
Alfie: Psychological Another sequence which reveals Alfies fears comes when he seduces Franks wife, A mother and devoted wife. Frank had been his friend at the sanatorium, where his wife visited him on a weekly basis. Alfie found Franks anticipation of these visits hard to witness and would constantly lecture his infirm friend on the dangers of getting too attached to a woman, especially when out of sight
Alfie: Psychological It is therefore doubly cruel when he seduces her, as he becomes the danger against which he had warned. This act shows that Alfie was secretly jealous and envious of Franks loyalty and courage. He cannot abide such relationships existing as they do not confirm to his rules on how men, and indeed women should act. A man must never surrender himself completely, as Frank does, so Alfie destroys this bond and proves his own rule.
Alfie: Psychological This union results in an unwanted pregnancy that needs to be aborted illegally. It is only at this point that Alfie really breaks down and shows his emotions. Confronted with the physical consequences (aborted foetus) of his actions, he cries. His actions are destructive, hurting those around him as Franks tells him. This theme is reinforced by the barroom brawl scene, in which Alfies mere presence causes chaos.
Alfie the Misogynist Alfie refers to women as it, as if they were objects or commodities of financial rather than emotional value. Sex doesnt seem to be his primary motive, especially when he rates women either on what services they can get him access to (free dry-cleaning, foot massages), or what they do for him at home (cooking pies). This should constitute a highly sexist attitude, but there seems to be more to it than meets the eye.
Alfie the Misogynist In one very brief aside, the film hints at Alfie having been an orphan. This suggests that not only has he had to fend his way through life, but he has had to do so by any means necessary. This perhaps accounts for his attitude towards any kind of emotional attachment discussed before: fear. But it might also suggest why he tries so hard to keep women at a distance, objectifying them not purely for sexual reasons but through a latent fear of abandonment.
Alfie and the Other Men Both the other main male characters in the film can be seen as stereotypes. They are physically weaker and far less attractive than Alfie, but represented positively. Humphrey, the bus conductor, is so devoted to the woman he loves that he is not only prepared to pursue her while she is seeing Alfie, but is willing to marry her and raise Alfies child, even though they both know she doesnt love him. This is strength, the film seems to suggest, that Alfie just does not have.
Alfie and the Other Men Frank has the courage to trust his wife, despite Alfies insistence she might be cheating on him