Alfie: The Commentary
The classic London film Alfie has been re-made by director Charles Shyer with Jude Law in the Michael Caine role. TiL, a site that appreciates London films, has been sent a sneak preview of part of the commentary track that will go with the DVD edition. Here is a transcript; the voices are Shyer and Law.
Jude Law: I think what really impressed me about ... what got me interested was how unnecessary this film was.
Charles Shyer: [Laughs.] Yeah.
JL: I mean, I really wanted to make a completely unnecessary film.
CS: The idea really came when I heard they were making Ocean's 12. I thought 'I can make a more pointless film'.
JL: It was fun.
[Opening scenes. Alfie is walking down a New York street.]
JL: New York, New York ...
CS: [Laughs] My kinda town!
JL: This isn't London. Why did you decide to set it in New York, not London?
CS: Oh, lots of reasons. I mean, London's like the co-star to Michael Caine in the original. It almost upstages Caine. It's an archetypal London film. So I thought 'Hey, we're draining all the life and soul out of this, London has to go!'
JL: Yeah. I also felt that setting it in New York added an unnecessary complication of it being a bit like [Woody Allen's 1979] Manhattan.
CS: Only much worse, obviously.
JL: Sure. But it just gives the film that extra edge of being utterly confused in atmosphere, directionless, a sodden mass of half-hearted homages and pastiche.
CS: Really? I didn't aim to give it that much depth.
JL: Now, I thought this scene was a real desecration. [Laughs.]
CS: Yeah! I mean, I really ripped the hell out of the character of Alfie in the screenplay -
JL: - I mean, Bill Naughton's stuff was OK in the 1960s and 1970s, you know, when people were interested in being challenged by issues of morality and society and shit, but now that stuff's kinda boring -
CS: - yeah, but all the same I was impressed by how Jude managed to play Alfie with absolutely no emotional depth whatsoever.
JL: Thank you! I mean, Caine played Alfie brilliantly, the smirking face of a real moral black hole, a sexual predator, the bastard child of the permissive society, and I thought 'I'm trying to find my own voice here, and all that stuff has been done, and besides, that sounds like hard work'. So I looked for my own voice, and found that it was 'automaton with commitment issues'.
CS: There are episodes of Ally McBeal that have more profound things to say about sexuality and society. That was really the benchmark I was aiming for. 'More shallow than a typical episode of Ally McBeal.'
JL: I really enjoyed shooting this film, partly because of how much it will annoy fans of the original, and partly in the knowledge that anyone else will walk away with nothing. And yet people will still go to see it.
CS: Yeah. Suckers.
JL: This scene was hard work, but I think we managed to ruin it ...
[Continued in the same theme for one and a half wasted hours.]
TiL's review of Alfie? Five stars! Out of 10,000.