Tom Jones (1963)

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I’m going to be perfectly honest here:  before watching it, I was certain this movie was a musical.  I mean, why not?  It fell right in the middle of the 60s, when practically everything was set to music.  It featured a whimsical lad with a weakness for the ladies, which is about the best you could expect from a bastard son raised by a country squire who takes pity on the chambermaid who apparently mothered him and abandoned him in the squire’s bed.

Tom Jones is based on an English novel from 1749 by Henry Fielding, and is apparently highly condensed, because the original tops out at over 300,000 words (that’s a lot of pages).  Needless to say, I don’t feel compelled to read the novel to get a sense of how it was adapted into this film.  I’ll take Wikipedia’s word for it that the plot remains pretty faithful to the book, minus a fair number of digressions, I’m sure.

Though Tom Jones is an illegitimate child, he is raised under the care of the squire, alongside his cousin.  Once they grow into adulthood, Tom turns out to be a bit of a man-slut while the cousin is a virtuous-but-hypocritical prig.  Tom gets kicked off the estate and wanders off to have some more adventures, and then eventually the plot wraps itself up conveniently.  Tom finds a couple more ladies to keep him company, including – against all probability – the woman known to all as his mother.  Yowza!

This is a really bizarre movie.  It has this curiously weird comical tone, with an arch narrator (using lines presumably pulled straight from the text) and characters who pretty regularly break the fourth wall to comment on the action.  Nobody, incidentally, breaks into a showstopping number, but I almost would have expected that in the middle of this otherwise non-musical film.  I was curious to see whether another Oscar winner (that I haven’t watched yet) might have tried a similar sort of stunt.  The closest I’d say is Annie Hall, but I watched that one ages ago and don’t feel obliged to do so again.  I did, however, stumble upon this fun little video featuring 400+ films that break the fourth wall.  If you stay through the end credits, you’ll spot quite a few of the movies on my Oscar list.

There are a couple of strange extended scenes that must have come from the book somehow but make a weird impression here.  The first is a long hunt, with about a hundred dogs and dudes on horses chasing after one little baby fawn.  Then there’s a scene where Tom eye-fucks a lady while they both gorge themselves on a multi-course meal, complete with sexy soup, lascivious lobster, and… I’m not going to find appropriate adjectives for the rest.  It’s enough to turn you off chicken legs for the rest of your life.

Like so many of the films I’ve watched this year, this is one that I would never have thought to watch outside of my project.  I’m not saying I’m the worse for having seen it – in fairness, I think it attempted to replicate on film something of the flavor of what I imagine the original novel might have achieved.  Even still, I’m growing a bit weary of educating myself.  I might spend next year watching the least-likely-to-win-an-Oscar films, just for contrast.

 

Theme:  Novel into film

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  You play like an atheist

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