Tom Jones

Studio: Criterion

Feb 27, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The bastard son of a serving wench, Tom Jones (Albert Finney) is taken in by a wealthy, country squire and raised as his own son. Handsome and honey-tongued, the puckish rascal has a habit of falling into bed with lowborn farmers’ daughters that betrays his noble upbringing and lands him on the outs with his benefactor. Tom is kicked off the estate, and sent away to find his own fortune (as well as plenty of wine, and loose women to hunker down with.) Meanwhile, young Sophie Western (Susannah York), an upperclass neighbor’s daughter and Tom’s true love, runs away from home when her father promises her hand to priggish stooge – she manages to catch up with Tom at numerous junctures, but unfortunately for him, it’s usually when he’s in bed with another woman.

Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones took Henry Fielding’s bawdy picaresque and updated it for a new generation. In 1963, the film took the Academy Awards by storm – winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Score and Best Adapted Screenplay, and receiving six more nominations – and dominated at the British box office. This remains surprising, even today, given just how nutty the movie feels when you watch it for the first time. It’s a lavish, 18th Century costume piece, with impeccable art direction; yet, it barely seems to take itself seriously, with a non-existent fourth wall – characters address the camera constantly – and more sped-up footage than an episode of the Benny Hill show. The cinematography is loose (often handheld) and the score manic, and several of the movie’s most memorable moments were unscripted. In hindsight, it can be easily viewed as something of a bridge between stuffy, prestigious period films and the madcap irreverence of Richard Lester’s Beatles films. (In one of the video essays on Criterion’s new release, a critic makes a very convincing argument that Tom Jones is the quintessential “swinging sixties” film.)

The Director’s Cut, included here on the first disc, is actually shorter than the theatrical version of the film, cutting away some eight minutes of padding that fans of the original version likely never realized was unnecessary. (Both cuts are restored in 4K.) Extra features include interviews with several of Richardson’s collaborators and a clip of star Albert Finney on The Dick Cavett Show.

(www.criterion.com/films/28736-tom-jones)




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