Even adding that information only gives a hint of what a fine little film A Man of No Importance is—and says nothing about the tremendous good humor and emotional resonance of the film or the complexity of its characters. Is Robbie quite as oblivious as he seems? (He certainly evidences jealousy over Alfie’s supposed relationship with Adele.) There are so many splendid moments to be found here, as when Alfie sees Robbie go off with a girl and drops his tea cup, apologizing to a kind waitress who tells him, “It was only an old cup got broke. Be worse if it was your heart.” And there’s his sister’s reaction when his secret comes out—“When I think of where your hands have been …” “That’s the point!” Alfie cries. “They’ve never been anywhere! I’ve never been close enough to anybody to rub up against them, let alone lay me hands on ‘em!” There are few more heartbreaking moments in film. Yet the movie is often very funny, too. The more you know Oscar Wilde, the more you’ll get out of the film (Alfie argues his love for Robbie using the speech Wilde made at his trial). But knowing Wilde or not knowing Wilde, getting the little homage to Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers or not, won’t hamper your enjoyment of this truly wonderful film that you ought to know, and very likely don’t.
The Asheville Film Society will screen A Man of No Importance Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke.