Thursday, February 21, 2013
This movie came on Turner Classics, and it was one of those things where I was going to watch 10 minutes of it, maybe record the rest. . . and I instantly fell in. I've seen it (Alfie with Michael Caine) at least twice before so there were no surprises. But it didn't matter. Like Gone with the Wind, you watch it because you know what's coming next. It sort of brands itself on you because we've all known someone like that, or maybe several someones, or maybe we've seen traces of it in ourselves.
I didn't remember the ending and in fact, the end credits were different in one version I saw on TV, they didn't have the rights to the music or something. . .because I remember thinking, hmmmm, aren't they going to do "that song"?, and they didn't. I knew the melancholy Dionne Warwick version, but WHO was this person singing, this raw, heartstring-wringing, out-on-the-edges-of-loneliness rendition that seemed to squeeze all the bitter pathos out of the detestable, irresistable character we couldn't stop watching for the past two hours?
The arrangement over the stylish black-and-white credits had a definite '60s context, a sort of harpsichord-flute-heavy-percussion feel to it, and that alone should've given me a clue (and it did, after the fact!) Then partway through the singing I guessed, then held my breath, wondering if I could be right, if it would be in the credits at the very end, and it was. All I can say is, it's a singer whose voice later dissolved into a heap of unattractive mannerisms, but back then, in 1966, before her real heyday even began, she had something, something raw and magnetic, something incredible which literally made me gasp. Artistry, all of it. And Michael Caine, and all that he was able to express. There is something beyond the scurrilous crap we have to live with every day. Listen for it.
(Oh, and - the person who uploaded this cut a few seconds off the end - like cutting the final resolving chord off a symphony - PLEASE don't do this! It matters!)
(And P. P. S.: I dreamed about this song all night! I dreamed about the movie, watching it all over again with a man I was supposed to know, someone with tattoos who spoke Cockney and seemed like some version of Michael Caine. I kept saying I watched the movie twice back-to-back over two days, which I never did, I couldn't stand to. Like a tattoo by an inept or even sadistic artist, it leaves a bruise, a dark sordid shadow of pity mixed with contempt. For all his seeming redemption at the end of the movie, we know Alfie won't change. He'll keep attaching himself parasitically to women, men too, lower companions that just get lower, until he ends up being found in a cheap room somewhere, a violent suicide. I've seen it. Believe me.)