Oliver Twist (1948)
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Great British classic with some beautiful cinematography.
If 1948's Oliver Twist is a classic among Dickens adaptations, it's largely because of director David Lean whose cinematography imbues the mean streets (and not altogether friendly countryside) of Victorian England with a quality akin to Gothic horror. The film is beautiful to look at. A couple of deaths are actually chilling in the way they're presented, most especially the brutal sequel that has the dog try to scratch its way off the scene of the crime. Lean almost extends this sequence beyond the audience's endurance, and all without really showing anything. Extremely effective film making. The film's big flaw, from today's perspective, is Fagin. While I was stoked to see Alec Guinness on the bill, but then he's in heavy make-up, a horrendous Jewish caricature (Fagin's religion or ethnicity is not brought up in the film, so why go there at all?). Quirk of the time. And quirk of the novel, as the exciting crime plot takes hold, Oliver becomes more a concern than a character, but then how much can we ask of a mostly silent little boy? A very strong adaptation that only shows its age in one portrayal.
As always with David Lean, well acted (children being not as well) and brilliant cinematography. if you don't read your Dickens, my guess is that this is the second best option for this classic.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #32 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #46 in BFI's Top 100 British Films
This movie ranks #139 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #369 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #622 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #651 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die