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Ben Kingsley to Play Fagin without Stereotypes

I remain cautiously optimistic about Roman Polanski's upcoming take on "Oliver Twist." If nothing else, it should add another shovelful of loam to the grave of David Lean's 1948 misfire. But in the end, Dickens is tough to get right on screen. Is someone as economical as Polanski the right man for the task? I hope so. May his uncanny eye for detail serve him well!

Though a piece in the New York Times yesterday makes it easy to hope that Polanski and company are on the right track to bringing a meaningful translation of Dickens' revered novel to the world's cinemas, a key question remains unanswered. In the film's ostensible efforts to shed Fagin of some of the Jewish stereotypes that have burdened him in other productions, are the filmmakers in danger of spoiling the queer dynamic between him and the truculent Bill Sykes? Will the two characters be, as in the novel, representatives of two concentric layers of evil? Or will Fagin be given too large a stage to fill on his own?

And of course all of this inquiry leads directly to the biggest question of all: just how vicious will the story's most brutal moment be in Polanski's film? Here there truly is hope that Polanski is the perfect choice. And maybe we'll finally have an "Oliver Twist" film that conveys some of the novel's dread.--Pete Mesling

Posted by Pete on August 22, 2005 8:01 PM
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