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In eighteenth century England, "first cousins" Tom Jones and Master Blifil grew up together in privilege in the western countryside, but could not be more different in nature. Tom, the bastard son of one of Squire Allworthy's servants Jenny Jones and the local barber Partridge, was raised by virtuous Allworthy as his own after he sent Jenny away. Tom is randy, chasing anything in a skirt, he's having a sexual relationship on the sly with Molly Seagrim, the peasant daughter of Allworthy's gamekeeper. Tom is nonetheless kind-hearted and good-natured, he who is willing to defend that and those in which he believes. Blifil, on the other hand, is dour, and although outwardly pious, is cold-hearted and vengeful. Despite his randiness, Tom eventually falls in love with Sophie Western, who has just returned to the area after a few years abroad. Despite Sophie's love for Tom, Squire Western and his spinster sister would rather see Sophie marry Blifil rather than a bastard, who Western ... Written by
Lyric beauty, bawdy humor and adventure set to celluloid and music.
In 1963 two of the most important productions in the history of movie making were released. The first was: "Cleopatra" with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, a cast as long as the Manhattan telephone directory and a budget bigger than the combined egos of the stars. "Cleopatra" was a total disaster. It has no redeeming quality that I know of. It is therefore important for embodying in one film, nearly everything that you can do wrong in making a movie. It is a movie that you must see if you are ever to understand what a truly good film really is. The second was: "Tom Jones" with Albert Finney and Susannah York, shot with rented equipment and costumes on the streets of London with a supporting cast of brilliant British ensemble players and extras who stood-in just to get in a film. Tom Jones is simply one of the best motion pictures of all time, for my money, The Best from Literature.
John Osborne who wrote the screen play produced a marvelous vehicle, but the genius of "Tom Jones" is Tony Richardson. He moves the actors and the story about the screen with a bawdy grace and earthy gentility that paints action and raucous laughter and beauty across one another with an even hand. It is a glimpse of antiquity so close and real that we can nearly touch it, and it makes us want to. (Though to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we'd care for the smell of it.)
"Tom Jones" is a low budget, low tech, high quality film that must win the award for the "Most with the Least." The photography is beautiful, not because it used a dozen half million dollar cameras, it is beautiful because it is good photography. The acting wins out, and casts of thousands would only serve to clutter the stage. See this film whenever, wherever and as often as you possibly can.
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