The man Alfie Elkins’ constant pursuit of hedonism, even as a caricature and as a plot device, is despicable and watching him prey on women in 1966’s Alfie, made me, as I’m sure it was supposed to, uncomfortable. The barrage of dehumanizing rituals to which Alfie routinely subjects his “things,” even as a parody of machismo and masculinity, if nothing else drives the point home that, even the most hedonistic and emotionless of all men, need some TLC. Sex without love is, as we’ve always seen, and we’ll continue to see, eventually meaningless and mostly depressing.
Hedonism, as a life pursuit, deludes lots of men (and women) into thinking that the sole goal of one’s life should be pleasure, and any work or relationship or activity should totally and finitely support that goal. In reality, as has been proven for thousands of years of text, music, film and fine art, the lifestyle is unsustainable and more often than not ends in defiant crash-and-burn. Refreshingly, though, Alfie’s life affirmation ends with contemplation; not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Alfie attempts to provide insight and hope into the concept of The Modern Man. In the 1966 rendition, Michael Caine, plays Alfie (not Alfred, Batman), a womanizing, friendless, carcass of a man, whose sole purpose seems to be reducing his women to almost inhuman levels of subservience. He treats his women like chattel and his “friends” as tools to the next easy lay. For, you see, women are Alfie’s addiction, but not love and not even lust; flesh is less important to him than the concept of owning a woman. It’s truly despicable: he describes his women using the pronoun “it,” picks up a nubile, naïve girl and almost forces her into involuntary servitude…..for what? What is it about this man that makes him so confident that his attention is even worth its weight in delusion? The answer, as our caricature finds out, is nothing. Continue reading