DJ Haza reveals his guilty pleasures in more “Frustrated Ramblings Of An Aspiring Filmmaker”…
We all have our guilty pleasures when it comes to film and television. That one film or television show that you know deep down is absolute tripe and you shouldn’t be watching it. But you do. It may be something that makes you laugh, but your friends don’t see the humor. It could even be a cheesy drama that strikes a chord with you and pulls at your heart-strings. Maybe even a certain film that reminds you of a certain time, person or place in your past and brings back happy memories. For me one of those guilty pleasures is Charles Shyer’s 2004 remake of Alfie. I know!
The original Alfie (1966) is a gem of British cinema and starred the similarly gem-like Micheal Caine. To some it may seem as a travesty to remake such as classic. To others maybe even a crime against cinema. Lewis Gilbert’s 1966 classic was nominated for five Oscars, so how could the remake better the original? It doesn’t really. It’s not a stitch on the original in terms of cinematic importance or stature. Shyer’s Alfie cost a whopping $60,000,000 and only grossed $35,000,000 worldwide. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an average rating of 5.6/10. Evidence that not everyone shares my fondness of the modern incarnation. But I still enjoy it.
If the modern version of Alfie is on I can’t help but watch it through to the very end. For me it’s slick, stylish and has a great soundtrack. When I’m watching it I can’t help but smile. Every inch of the integral filmmaker inside me screams that I should not like this film. I cannot like this film. But I do. It isn’t really a film I would have liked to have made myself and I’m sure that when I first heard the original was being remade I probably made an internal protest within my own head. But… it entertains me. This is why….
Jude Law is perfect for the sly and seductive lothario in the remake. Despite having a distinct lack of acting talent Law doesn’t need to do much more than act natural if half of the tabloid rumors about his personal life are true. He fits the bill of charming and selfish down to a tee. Alfie’s wardrobe is immense. From his range of exquisite suits, shirts and ties down to his Prada lace-ups it is a wardrobe that is stuffed full of high end named labels. He always looks sharp even when dressed down and I for one would kill for a wardrobe like that.
New York City is a stunning setting with its bohemian coffee shops, towering sky scrapers and trendy bars. Plus it looks even better at Christmas. Since I visited the city for a week around New Year’s 2005 I’ve always wanted to go back. The city was then, as it is in parts of the film, blanketed with white snow and lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree with all the trimmings. With other shots like the ones set beside the Brooklyn Bridge as it lights up the East River at night it looks simply stunning.
The soundtrack is pure audio bliss with a collection of 13 original songs, and a rewrite of the 1966 original title song, written by Dave Stewart and Mick Jagger. A beautiful fusion of rock and blues give the film another edge of class. I have even gone as far as to buy the soundtrack and I am indeed listening to it this very second as I electronically scribble way.
Perhaps the icing on the cake is the inspired casting of Sienna Miller. Not because she makes the part her own or nails the American accent perfectly. Who cares about that? The scene in which Alfie shows his unhappiness at his current girlfriend Nikki painting in his favourite shirt is one of my most enjoyed. Not because it has any real story telling merit, but because Nikki, played by Miller, precedes to take the shirt off and continue painting in her pants and boots whilst sucking on a cigarette. What more could you want?
Like I’ve said – it’s not from some sort of filmmaking appreciation I enjoy the film. It’s just nice to watch. I know that some of the exterior shots of New York City were shot in Manchester, Liverpool and the Port of Tilbury and when intercut with cityscape shots of Manhattan make it look like New York. I know that Jude Law is a shit actor, but he doesn’t have to do much acting. I also know that the clothes in Alfie’s wardrobe wouldn’t fit over my writer’s stomach, but I’d squeeze them on somehow.
What people have to remember about the latest incarnation of Alfie is that it is of a different time. The original was making an abrasive statement of London in the swinging 60’s where as this one is more about having fun. Alfie proves that you don’t need big money or a flash job to enjoy life. Even those with humble surroundings can get our kicks. He’s got a roof over his head, some nice threads and a beautiful city to play in so why not go out and enjoy life. There is also of course the obligatory closing moral about being careful of burning too many bridges in life.
At this point I must admit that I am uncertain as to whether I am trying to justify my fondness of Alfie to you the reader or myself. All I know is that Alfie himself leads a pretty decent life and he lives in a world where all you need is nice clothes and a city to play in for one to be happy. The film’s offering of escapism to a world where your only concern is who’s bed your going to be sleeping in tonight seems pretty good to me. You may, and probably do, disagree. You know what? I may just stick the DVD on this evening, kick back and enjoy. Excuse me whilst I go and wash hands. I’m feeling very dirty right now.