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Three Reverse Shotters e-mail round table on this season’s most challenging box office disappointment (and God no, it’s not the “tone poem” critic-porn Keane):

Sean McAvoy: So what’d you think of Oliver Twistee aka The Tenant 2: Resurrection? I was lucid for at least 93% of it, but you may have noticed me dozing off at points towards the end. I loved Fagin’s last scene, as we leave him crying from the cell. Heartbreaking. You can’t fault the production design, mise-en-scene, whatever, for perfectly capturing that mythologized Dickens England with its red-faced jowly pompous asses and rat-infested alleys. Perhaps it’s a little too perfect, like Amelie‘s Paris or Chocolat‘s wherever the fuck — so production-designed down to the last frilly tea coozy that there’s no room to think.

Kingsley is superb, as is the red-haired chap. My general feeling is basically, “Yes, that sure is a movie version of Oliver Twist.” No strong opinions either way, whereas I felt The Pianist tapped in to vintage Polanski themes with a one-of-a-kind clammy slant. I don’t want to say that anyone could’ve made this Oliver, but there’s definitely some autopilot going on.

To borrow from Video Hound: Three bones.

filmenthusiast2000: For my part I found something enjoyable about the way Polanski?s authorial presence is back-seated to Dickens? story?I feel like a lot of filmmakers spoiled by auteur-pampering seem to stamp their trademarks all over material without call, because they?re expected to… It?s a very humble, almost subservient telling, thought not without some bracing signature moments of terror?the boy stomping back-and-forth in hunger at the workhouse is one, and I found the general opacity of the actor playing Oliver an interesting contrast to the usual cloying, long-suffering angels who mawk up that kind of role. At times he equals Brody in The Pianist for sheer opacity. As per the immaculacy of the movie?s filth-strewn alleys, I think it?s in keeping with Polanski?s aesthetic scheme, announced from the start when the woodcut illustration bleeds into a film image?it?s a boy?s picture storybook come to life. I haven?t seen Pirates, but I imagine the same side of P-ski is on display here. At any rate?ridiculously watchable, with nice jabs of dingy horror?I love Bill Sykes trying to drown his dog in that sordid canal? And who was that young actress playing Nancy? Leanne Rowe? Those tits!

Nobody will give a shit about this movie?it?s careful and never loudly provocative, too grim for ?family fare,? too Merchant-Ivory for the cool kids, and long stretches of it feel like they could?ve been shot in 1940 by William Dieterle or Rouben Mamoulian or some other expert of soundstage atmosphere. Oh well.

I never read the book, of course. Minor Dickens.

clarencecarter: Forget getting depressed over the failures of the latest indie-auteur flavor of the week (Film Forum exclusive-two weeks only!). Sure, there was once a time where I would?ve let the trials and tribulations of every Sundance award-winner affect my mood, but everything?s relative as they say?how can I get depressed when something bombs on one screen downtown when Roman-fucking-Polanski doing Dickens(!) tanks in wide release. There?s filmmaking and then there?s Filmmaking and Oliver Twist definitely carves out space for itself in the latter camp. Unshowy, unhurried, really considered throughout?it?s the second movie I?ve seen this year based on earlier work and that really needn?t exist, but that still gave me a ton of pleasure all the same (Bad News Bears being the other). I appreciate a movie that doesn?t need to cut every two seconds, or overwhelm with score (especially in a period setting), that pays attention to detail, and just plain evinces a love of craft. Polanski could?ve just tripod?ed up and panned around, but there?s some seriously delicious minor camera moves through?like a slight movement to the right as Oliver first enters the work house, or some of the really nice floaty stuff on the streets. Call it a prequel to The Pianist or a Hogarth etching brought to life? Oh, and Ben Kinglsey elevates a role that Geoffrey Rush would’ve made into a ham sandwich…

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