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Based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist is about an orphan boy who runs away from a workhouse and meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. Oliver is taken in by the pickpocket and he joins a household of young boys who are trained to steal for their master. This version of Oliver Twist is topped by Alec Guinness's masterly performance of arch-thug Fagin. Written by
Jenny Evans <J.Evans@uts.edu.au>
After viewing over 10,000 movies, I still have the same opinion I had after I saw this movie the first time and had watched maybe a thousand films at that point: this is simply the best-looking black-and-white film I've ever seen.
On the Criterion DVD, scene after scene is just jaw-dropping. I have never seen so many incredible shots with wonderful contrasts of light and dark. Much of this is filmed dark rooms or nighttime in the cobblestone streets. Those scenes, combined with many facial closeups, great buildings, and interesting camera angles, all make this an incredible viewing experience.
All of this helps make up for watching a depressing story. It was just unappealing, at least to me, because all the people except for the little boy are unlikable. Some of them mistreat the little kid and that's difficult to watch. I'm a sucker for nice people, especially an innocent child, and to see suffer is not fun to me.
One of those bad guys, however, is memorable: Fagin, played by Alec Guiness. In this film, he has to be one of the ugliest people I've ever seen, sporting the biggest nose ever put on screen. A teenage Anthony Newley as "the artful Dodger" also stands out.
But, as someone who is into art, David Lean's direction and Guy Green's camera-work draw me back to this DVD every couple of years...and at least I always know there is a happy ending for the one nice kid in the film.
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