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OLIVER TWIST: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Young orphan Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) runs away from the dreadful workhouse and makes for London, where he is taken in hand by Artful Dodger (Harry Eden), and his gang of youths who work the streets and lanes, picking pockets for the villainous and scheming old Fagin (Ben Kingsley). When a simple trick goes wrong, Oliver is blamed and hauled up in front of the unkind magistrate, where he meets the kind hearted Mr Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke), who recognizes in Oliver an innocent spirit. But Oliver is dragged back into the gutter by his old cronies, and of them all, Nancy (Leanne Rowe) is the one whose conscience won't allow any harm to come him, especially from the wicked Bill Sikes (Jamie Foreman). But Nancy's kindness is rewarded by a terrible revenge and Oliver's very life is in danger as Sikes tries to evade the police.

Review by Louise Keller:
With its themes of survival, love and betrayal, it's not surprising that Charles Dickens' classic tale has been revived again and again for the screen. Roman Polanski's new film version is told with appropriate dramatic eloquence capturing the essence of the Dickensian characters, although it lacks the kind of edge to which we are accustomed from Polanski. Shot in Prague, it's a handsome production with splendid sets and production design, readily convincing us we are in 19th Century England, with its cobbled streets, oil lanterns and hansom cabs.

The central character of Oliver Twist (played by 11 year old English /Australian newcomer Barney Clark) looks a little like Polanski might have looked as a child, with his air of melancholy and quiet determination. Clark's Oliver is more mechanical than endearing and his famous line 'Please sir, I want some more' at the beginning of the film, is almost thrown away. Clark does everything that is asked of him, yet he stops short of making us care for him. Because of this, the stakes are not as high as they might have been.

Ben Kingsley's wily Fagin is the film's most complex character, and the scene in which he embraces Oliver with pathetic vigour at the end, is filled with pathos. The subplot between Jamie Foreman's superbly nasty Bill Sykes and Leanne Rowe's warm-hearted Nancy impacts the most emotionally, and we really care for Nancy, whose sense of goodness is greater than her love for Bill. Bullseye (Turbo) the dog, is spot on, too. The Artful Dodger (Harry Eden) and the other youngsters are terrific, as are the character actors portraying the Dickensian characters that are forever imprinted in our minds.

Probably the thing that Polanski's Oliver Twist does best, is deliver the mood of the day. And he does so on a platter. We may not ask for more, but it's an enjoyable and satisfying visit, irrespective of whether we are familiar with the story or not. Rachel Portman's flowery score with its instantly recognisable phrasing and themes, is a surprising choice, bringing a triteness to the tone that is contrary to the story.

DVD special features includes featurettes and trailers.

Published November 23, 2006

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

OLIVER TWIST: DVD (PG)
(UK/Czech/Fr/Italy, 2005)

CAST: Ben Kingsley, Barney Clark, Leanne Rowe, Mark Strong, Jamie Foreman, Harry Eden, Edward Hardwicke, Ian McNeice, Jeremy Swift, Michael Heath, Gillian Hanna

PRODUCER: Robert Benmussa, Roman Polanski, Alain Sarde

DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski

SCRIPT: Ronald Harwood (novel Charles Dickens)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pawel Edelman

EDITOR: Herve de Luze

MUSIC: Rachel Portman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Allan Starski

RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 15, 2006

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette; The Best of Twist, Kidding with Oliver Twist, trailers

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 1, 2006







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