Friday, 19 March 2010

76. TOM JONES - 1963

In my opinion, ‘Tom Jones’ is the most surprising Best Picture winner. The film is the adaptation of the classic Henry Fielding book and it is told as a raunchy, farcical comedy with scenes that pay homage to silent movies. The title character was abandoned as a baby and brought up by a kindly squire. He falls in love with the fair Sophia but due to his lack of parentage and foolish behaviour he is shunned by the other characters. He then proceeds to sleep his way through the film and cause havoc wherever he goes.

I found ‘Tom Jones’ perfectly pleasant to watch in the same way that I find Carry on films enjoyable. Albert Finney plays the role well: he is a lovable rogue, but the film does not show any of the characters good qualities that are described in the book. His loyal nature goes unmentioned in order to make the character more of a caricature and less of a credible human being. Because of this, the film can never considered a high brow drama or anything more than what it is: a fun frolic.
The best moment in the film is the iconic feasting scene: Tom Jones meets Mrs Waters (Joyce Redman) and the two of them make lustful eyes at each other whilst gorging themselves on a massive feast. It is a wonderful scene and a real iconic comedy moment.

Good things about the film include the acting: it was nominated for five acting academy awards (no film has more), the music, the hilarious feasting scene and the stylish way that the silent film sections are interspersed with the main film; but the overriding problem with the film is that I cannot take it seriously as a great piece of cinema. ‘Tom Jones’ gives the viewer nothing to think about and it is, when it boils down to it, nothing more than a well acted, but silly, comedy picture that it very much of its day.

1963 is not widely regarded as the best year for cinema, and when you look at the list of best picture nominations for the year, there are no films that provoke a horrified reaction, ‘What?! Tom Jones beat that?!’, until you realise that 1963 was the year that ‘Fellini’s 8 ½’ was released. However, the Academy has never awarded the Best Picture film to a foreign language film and therefore there is no surprise that ‘Tom Jones’ triumphed over that landmark piece of cinema. ‘Tom Jones’ is essentially a film of its day: a period comedy, in a very 1960s style with the main character as bold an anti-hero as any.

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