Manchester As New York City
In 2004, Charles Shyer’s modern day New York version of the classic womanizer, Alfie hit the cinema screens, though not many people in the watching audience would have realised that some of the actual scenes were shot in England. The original film made Michael Caine a star and turned heads with its view of sexuality. Though the remake didn’t reach the same dizzy heights of success that its predecessor achieved, it was still a surprisingly enjoyable film.
It starred Jude Law as Alfie, a Cockney limo driver who regularly bedded and discarded beautiful women. In addition to maintaining a casual relationship with a single mother named Julie played by Marisa Tomei, that he referred to as his "semi-regular-quasi-sort-of-girlfriend thing", he also slept with various girls on the side, such as an unhappily married Dorie played by Jane Krakowski. At the first inkling Dorie wanted something more than casual sex, he decided to block all contact. Alfie wanted to go into business with his co-worker and best friend, Marlon, but he was preoccupied with trying to win back his ex-girlfriend, Lonette. Marlon asked Alfie to put in a good word with Lonette, and so he met with her at a bar to persuade her to get back together with Marlon and ended up having sex with her on a pool table. The next day, Alfie met with Marlon, terrified that he knew about their indiscretion, but was relieved when Marlon said that he and Lonette got back together. Soon after, Alfie went back to Julie's place for another booty call, upon which she threw him out after confronting him about his affair with Dorie, which she learned about after finding the other woman's panties in his laundry. Alfie then got another unpleasant surprise: Lonette was pregnant with his child. Without telling Marlon, they visited a clinic and arranged for her to have an abortion. Soon afterwards, Marlon and Lonette unexpectedly moved upstate without even saying goodbye to Alfie. Following repeated failures to achieve an erection with various women, Alfie visited a doctor who told him he was perfectly healthy, and that his impotence was due to stress. However, the doctor also located a lump in Alfie's testicle that could have been cancerous. Alfie immediately had a test run at the clinic and spent a few anxious days awaiting the result. During one of his trips to the hospital, Alfie met a widower named Joe in the clinic bathroom. Joe imparted some life advice to the depressed Alfie: "Find somebody to love, and live every day like it's your last". Soon afterwards, Alfie found out that he didn’t have cancer, and believing that he had been given a second chance decided to "aim higher" in his love life.
To that end, he picked up a beautiful but unstable young woman named Nikki played by Sienna Miller, and they quickly embarked on a passionate, turbulent relationship. They moved in together, but Alfie found it hard to put up with her mood swings, especially after she went off her medication. He began to distance himself from Nikki, and set his sights on an older woman, Liz played by Susan Sarandon, a sultry cosmetics mogul. Alfie became infatuated with her, but she wanted to keep their relationship strictly sexual. After Alfie broke up with Nikki, he bumped into Julie in a coffee shop, and found that he still had feelings for her; to his dismay, however, she's was now happily involved with someone else. A trip upstate to visit Marlon and his now-wife, Lonette, revealed that she never actually went through with the abortion. Alfie also learns that Marlon knew that Alfie got her pregnant, but nonetheless raised the child as his own. Marlon then cut all ties with him. Alfie called Joe, who told him that he needed to get his life together, after which Alfie turned to Liz for comfort, but was crushed to discover that she had a new man in her life. Alfie demanded to know what her new boyfriend had that he didn’t; Liz replied, "he's younger than you". Alfie had a chance meeting with Dorie late one night. He tried to get back into her life, but she said that she wanted no part of him. The film ended with Alfie talking to the audience about changing his ways.
This week, otsoNY went along to Soap Street in the city of Manchester to see the location on which the fake cafe was constructed. Manchester is perhaps more famous for its long-running soap opera Coronation Street and it’s two successful Premiership football teams; Manchester United and Manchester City. On first impressions, the area in which Soap Street resides is rundown and filthy with thick, decades-old deposits of soot and grime coating the old warehouse buildings, while underfoot the remains of rotten fruit, discarded takeaway cups and broken glass. At its westerly end, the street which is really little more than an alley has bulging wheelie-bins and a restaurant called “This & That” offering a selection of curries and rice with the option to either take away, or to eat in. Connecting to Soap Street are Back Turner Street and High Street, which leads onto the bizarrely constructed region of colourful Lego-style apartment buildings.
Soap Street is in the increasingly hip Northern Quarter, where new-builds and conversions continue rapidly. Newly constructed luxury apartment and barcode façade office block makeovers, all of which began life in the late 90s when the city of Manchester decided to have a face lift and compete with the likes of nearby Liverpool, which incidentally was also used for shopping locations in the film.
The decorative fire escapes have all but vanished from the peeling-postered brick walls, and though the street could have the potential to resemble that of a lower West Side alley in Manhattan, after some much required cosmetic help, today Soap Street has a sense of being disjointed, left to its own devices with no currency to adapt to the newly reconstructed glass facades buildings that now surround it, and the area upon which the cafe was constructed all of those years ago, now acts solely as a scrap for parking cars.
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