Night and Day: Wednesday, May 30, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Twist of Fate

Mention David Lean to most casual film fans, and they’ll think of his suave, big-budget, middlebrow, Oscar-winning films: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965). However, his 1948 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is an eye-opening experience for anyone who thinks those films are typical Lean. The story takes place in the dingiest streets of mid-19th-century London. Even though the film was made by the distinguished J. Arthur Rank Studios, its black-and-white cinematography excellently re-creates the atmosphere of what Dickens called “the great and dirty city.”

Then there’s Alec Guinness’ controversial performance as Fagin, which was and continues to be denounced as anti-Semitic by some. Dickens’ conception of the character was undoubtedly anti-Semitic — he resorted to the old blood libel, depicting the Jew as a corrupter of small children and dropping hints that Fagin was a pedophile — so any dramatic adaptation of the novel encounters this problem. (The author softened the anti-Semitism in the book’s later editions.) Guinness’ version, however, goes further than most; his Fagin sports a huge hooked nose and a thick accent. As powerful as Guinness’ portrayal is, it’s Robert Newton’s nervously twitching Bill Sikes who steals this movie. Most other actors play the character as evil, but his Sikes is an ordinary lowlife who’s driven to murder by his fear of being caught. No Classics Illustrated adaptation, this movie brings the book’s most menacing aspects scarily to life.

Oliver Twist screens at 7:30pm at AMC Sundance 11, 304 Houston St, FW. Tickets are $6. Call 817-820-0066.



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