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kenmorefield

Oliver Twist (2005)

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I'm still sorting my thoughts on Polanski's version, but bottom line, I was impressed. It never felt like a "chore" to watch, but neither did it fly by. All in all, a well made, very well acted adaptation.

I hope parents take their kids to this, rather than "Valiant" or whatever else is aimed at the younger crowd right now. The film is, until a brutal sequence late in the story, great family viewing -- dark at times, but -- and this is what I'm still sorting through, if not struggling with -- entertaining and rather amusing.

I'm not sure the shifting tone is appropriate to the original story, but it certainly makes for a more enjoyable 2 hours (and 10 minutes!).

This film has the best group of faces this side of a Coen Brothers movie. Seriously.

Edited by Christian

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Caught it this afternoon. Mulling over how to write it up.

I note that the IMDB indicates that over 20 adaptations of the Dickens story have been filmed already -- but once you rule out the TV shows (including the 1982 version with George C. Scott, which I think I saw when I was young), the silent movies (including 1906's A Modern Oliver Twist!), the cartoons (including the 1974 version, which I think I saw when I was young, as well as the 1988 Disney film Oliver & Co.), and the modernizations (like the 2004 film Boy Called Twist, set in South Africa, or the 2003 film Twist, which starred Nick Stahl as Dodge, one of number of male prostitutes in modern-day Toronto), there have only been FOUR theatrical more-or-less straightforward adaptations in the sound era:

* the 1933 version, which starred Irving Pichel (future director of religious movies like
The Great Commandment
,
Martin Luther
and
Day of Triumph
) as Fagin

* the David Lean film (1948)

* the Lionel Bart / Carol Reed musical
Oliver!
(1968)

* the new Polanski film (2005)

It seems the 1933 film hasn't made much of an impression on anybody -- someone at the IMDB calls it a "low-budget" version -- whereas the Lean and Reed films are famous in their own right, and I have read that Polanski was reluctant to make his own version because he didn't want to follow in Reed's footsteps so "soon" after Reed made his film, and then somebody finally pointed out to him that Reed's film was made almost 40 years ago.

Can anyone think of any other films that might fit this category? I say all this, BTW, knowing that some might consider calling the musical a "straightforward" adaptation is a bit of a stretch. And I realize some might think it snobbish to ignore the TV productions, of which there have been at least five since Reed's film came out (one of which, in 1997, starred Richard Dreyfuss as Fagin and Elijah Wood as the Artful Dodger).

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Oh, here's another question: Has any other film director ever adapted BOTH Shakespeare AND Dickens to the big screen? I am thinking of Polanski's 1971 version of Macbeth, of course.

Searching IMDB under "Joint Ventures" for "Charles Dickens" in the "Writer" category and "Franco Zeffirelli", "Laurence Olivier", "Kenneth Branagh" or "Orson Welles" in the "Director" category (to cite the four most prolific Shakespeare adapters that come to mind) turns up nothing.

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Oh, hey, and how about this bit from Wikipedia's entry on the novel:

Adaptations of the novel tend to simplify the original story. The way the book is normally interpreted on screen causes modern readers to focus on Bill Sikes as the villain. They thus fail to recognise how Fagin has trained Sikes and made him what he is; part of Dickens' message is that he might have done the same with Oliver had chance not intervened.

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Russ   
I'm still sorting my thoughts on Polanski's version, but bottom line, I was impressed. It never felt like a "chore" to watch, but neither did it fly by. All in all, a well made, very well acted adaptation.

I hope parents take their kids to this, rather than "Valiant" or whatever else is aimed at the younger crowd right now. The film is, until a brutal sequence late in the story, great family viewing -- dark at times, but -- and this is what I'm still sorting through, if not struggling with -- entertaining and rather amusing.

I'm not sure the shifting tone is appropriate to the original story, but it certainly makes for a more enjoyable 2 hours (and 10 minutes!).

This film has the best group of faces this side of a Coen Brothers movie. Seriously.

So, despite the PG-13, you don't think the film's too much for an 8-year old with greater-than-average endurance for things scary or threatening? My wife's eager to see this, and I think it'd make for a nice night out for her with our oldest.

I like how the print ads are using a blurb from John Irving. It's not often that you see any writer quoted in movie copy. Makes me remember that first semester of Lit Analysis, lo these sixteen years ago, and his essay called, I think, "In Defense of Sentimentality" and centered around a defense of Dickens. I had read and enjoyed "Owen Meany" the summer before college, but this essay was my clue that I might not have a lifelong affinity for Dickens or Irving.

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mrmando   
Oh, here's another question:  Has any other film director ever adapted BOTH Shakespeare AND Dickens to the big screen?  I am thinking of Polanski's 1971 version of Macbeth, of course.

David Lean directed Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and As You Like It.

Trevor Nunn directed Twelfth Night for the big screen and has done The Merchant of Venice, Othello and Nicholas Nickleby (as co-director) for TV.

George Cukor directed David Copperfield (the W.C. Fields version) and Romeo and Juliet with the dream cast of the 1930s: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, John Barrymore, Edna May Oliver, Basil Rathbone ... and ANDY DEVINE?!?!?!?!

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So, despite the PG-13, you don't think the film's too much for an 8-year old with greater-than-average endurance for things scary or threatening?  My wife's eager to see this, and I think it'd make for a nice night out for her with our oldest.

The film's rating is due to "disturbing images," which, IIRC, must have to do with a grisly murder late in the film (a splash of blood is shown). I don't think there's much more to worry about, and I'd be surprised if your 8-year-old hadn't seen far worse.

I hope you like the film, which has tanked at the box office. If you do go, please share your experience. I'd love to know how an 8-year-old reacts to the movie. Part of me suspects it might try his patience, but the more hopeful part of me thinks kids would be drawn to the story, and that the lack of rapid-fire editing wouldn't be a drawback.

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mrmando wrote:

: David Lean directed Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and As You Like It.

Um, no. He EDITED a 1936 version of As You Like It, but he did not DIRECT any films until the 1940s.

Interesting about the others. Don't know if I would count the small screen. smile.gif

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mrmando   
Um, no.  He EDITED a 1936 version of As You Like It, but he did not DIRECT any films until the 1940s.

Ack. I was looking at the wrong part of the filmography, sorry.

There are oodles of silent adaptations of both Shakespeare and Dickens; some crossover there is almost inevitable, although I haven't found it yet.

I did discover that there were no fewer than five silent films about David Garrick, the 18th-century impresario famous for his Shakespeare productions. Four of the five have a credited director or writer in IMDB

Edited by mrmando

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MattPage   

Saw this last night. Not a patch on the 80s version (as I remember it) which drove me to reading the book, but still pretty good. Sykes got better, but was easily the weakest part of the film compared to Mike Atwell's performance in the BBC 80s TV version.

One thing I was surprised at was that this film dropped the whole Mr-Brownlow-is-Oliver's-real-Grandfather thing. I can't rem,ember whther that was is in the book or not, but I'd always thought it was. It seemed rather pivotal before last night.

I also liked the youthfulness of the cast. It was as shame Sykes wasn'ty also younger, he just seemed to be simple, rather than really nasty (as per Atwell) and/or made that way by Fagin as per the book.

But the ages of Noah Claypole, and particularly Nancy and her friend was quite noticeable. Nancy's trade is never referred to, but forthose who know the story, and are appauled by young girls tgetting taken into prostitution abroad, it's a useufl reminder that it wasn't that long ago that it was rife in Britain.

And Barney Clark was great as Oliver, if onmly it wasn't toto late to include him in the FFCC awards.

Matt

PS Did anyone else find themselves humming medley of "Oompa-pa, oompapa", and "you've got to pick a pocket or two" after they watched this?

Oh and Mark Srong and Leanne Rowe were brilliant as the red haired bloke and nancy (Mark Strong is a really good actor - he was dead familiar, but even after reading it on the IMDb I wasn't convinced it was him).

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Stephanie Zacherak at Salon says Oliver Twist was unjustly overlooked by the Academy:

And then there's the great movie of last year that, almost surprisingly, nearly no one saw: Roman Polanski's allegorically semiautobiographical "Oliver Twist." The picture was badly marketed and, by and large, stupidly reviewed, a shame for many reasons, most notably that Ben Kingsley's performance as Fagin slipped by unnoticed.

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Caught this last night. Haven't read the book, nor seen any other adaptation (stage or screen). Enjoyed it quite a bit--found the sense of hopelessness held in tension with the glimmer of rescue to be very well done. Liked the music, (warning--I'm not musical), esp. the very few times when the score shifted into a major key when Oliver was seeing a brief respite in the overall drudgery of the story. I should have turned on the subtitles, because I think that Kinsgley was speaking English, but I would be guessing here.

Really, really like the kid who played Oliver, and the enduring goodness he portrayed. There were two points at which I was sure that Polanski would take this the other way--one, in the finale with Sykes, i was certain that he'd have Oliver contribute more actively to his escape, and in the last scenes with Fagin, where the scene unfolded in a completely surprising fashion to me.

Re: Matt's comment on the grandfather angle--the screenwriter abandoned it with the choice of narrowing the storyline to solely Oliver's, and giving up on all subplots.

Good film. Nicely realized, with an illustrative eye in the set design and cinematography.

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<!--QuoteBegin-Christian+Sep 28 2005, 12:11 PM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Christian @ Sep 28 2005, 12:11 PM)</div><div class='quotemain'><!--QuoteEBegin-->I'm still sorting my thoughts on Polanski's version, but bottom line, I was impressed. It never felt like a "chore" to watch, but neither did it fly by. All in all, a well made, very well acted adaptation.

I hope parents take their kids to this, rather than "Valiant" or whatever else is aimed at the younger crowd right now. The film is, until a brutal sequence late in the story, great family viewing -- dark at times, but -- and this is what I'm still sorting through, if not struggling with -- entertaining and <i>rather amusing</i>.

I'm not sure the shifting <i>tone</i> is appropriate to the original story, but it certainly makes for a more enjoyable 2 hours (and 10 minutes!).

This film has the best group of faces this side of a Coen Brothers movie. Seriously.

<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

So, despite the PG-13, you don't think the film's too much for an 8-year old with greater-than-average endurance for things scary or threatening? My wife's eager to see this, and I think it'd make for a nice night out for her with our oldest.

I like how the print ads are using a blurb from John Irving. It's not often that you see any writer quoted in movie copy. Makes me remember that first semester of Lit Analysis, lo these sixteen years ago, and his essay called, I think, "In Defense of Sentimentality" and centered around a defense of Dickens. I had read and enjoyed "Owen Meany" the summer before college, but this essay was my clue that I might not have a lifelong affinity for Dickens or Irving.

Russ, if you're reading, did you ever watch this with your then 8-year-old? I'm curious to know how it went. My oldest daughter is now 7. She's watching an Astaire/Rogers flick with her younger sister at the moment. I'm not sure she's ready for Oliver Twist.

Also, funny to read my own line about the Coen brothers here, after making the same comparison coming out of The White Ribbon yesterday. And I thought I was being original!

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