Alfie pulls few punches. With Michael Caine giving a powerfully strong performance as the woman-mad anti-hero, and with dialog and situations that are humorous, tangy, raw and, ultimately, often moving, the film may well shock. But behind its alley-cat philosophy, there’s some shrewd sense, some pointed barbs and a sharp moral.
One of the biggest chances that the film takes is in its frequent use of the direct speech approach to the audience. This does not always come off in the picture as well as it used to do with Groucho in the old Marx Bros films. But the device served well enough in Bill Naughton’s play, and does here.
Story concerns a glib, cynical young Cockney whose passion in life is chasing dames of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions, providing they are accommodating. The film traces the promiscuous path of this energetic young amoralist as he flits from one to the other without finding much lasting pleasure. In fact, he finishes up as a somewhat jaded, cutprice Lothario, disillusioned but still on the chase.
Caine brings persuasiveness, and a sardonic, thoroughly shabby and humorous charm to the role. The two best performances among the women come from Julia Foster, becomingly wistful throughout, and Vivien Merchant as the married woman who suffers an abortion.
1966: Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Michael Caine), Supp. Actress (Vivien Merchant), Screenplay, Song ( Alfie )