Sunday, November 8, 2015

Bond Again--A Pictorial Primer for Spectre










See James Bond. James jumps from building to building towards the beginning of his new film Spectre. James Bond looks good shooting people while wearing a perfectly styled suit. We have seen him before. He reminds me of Frank Zappa's "I'm the Slime": "[He's] been around for years but very little as changed."












Here's Sam Mendes. He directed Spectre and Skyfall (2012) and once, long ago, American Beauty (1999), which struck me as insufferably pretentious. Pretentious, pretentious, pretentious, so naturally the movie won Best Picture for the Oscars that year. Mendes is a very serious filmmaker, which makes him ideally suited (I guess) for directing Spectre.







Here's an example of American Beauty being pretentious. In this scene, a plastic bag floats around, and a character in the movie finds it beautiful. Pretty, pretty plastic bag, so much unexpected beauty in the world.










See the current Bond girl, Madeleine Swann, as played by Lea Seydoux, dressed in a beautiful evening gown. Seydoux is a fine French actress, and she makes Spectre more tolerable, a film that otherwise consists mostly of a series of homages to other, better, previous Bond films, such as From Russia with Love (1963), which has some similar train scenes. Homage, homage, homage. Spectre feels more like a museum than a movie.
















Here is Bond and Madeleine Swan flirting on the train just before a bad man tries to kill them. See them flirt, flirt, flirt as Bond (Daniel Craig) wears an noirish white dinner jacket reminiscent of Casablanca (1942). We've seen this scene before in From Russia with Love and North by Northwest (1959), but who cares when there's so much serious movie star glamour intermixed with the homages?









Here s Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. He's Evil, Evil, Evil. He has a cat and a scar, and he wears a Nehru jacket. I don't know why I thought of him in relation to Spectre. Surely, he has nothing to do with anything.

















Here's Blofield, another Bond villain, from You Only Live Twice (1967). Villainous, villainous, villainous. Evil, evil, evil. Surprisingly, one can find distinct echoes of the man in Spectre.










See the real villain of Spectre sit in the distance, poorly lit, surrounded by an evil committee, and framed by a big door. Poorly lit, poorly lit, poorly lit. We can tell that he's the villain and he must be very powerful because Sam Mendes makes him so hard to see for so long.











See what I mean? Very poorly lit. During this big meeting, a man kills another man with his bare hands by poking his eyes out, and nobody reacts. That's how you can tell it's a big evil meeting.













Here's Madeleine Snow again acting surly in a hotel room in Tangiers as Bond trains his gun on a mouse, threatening to kill it. "Who sent you?" he asks the mouse, one of the few more playful moments in this very serious movie.











See Ben Whishaw play Q, the gadget man and computer genius of the movie. I really enjoyed Whishaw's starring role as John Keats in Jane Campion's excellent Bright Star (2009). Too bad he just plays a winsome geek in the Bond series.









See Ed Snowden. Even though he lacks all of the guns, action scenes, and race cars of James Bond, his real-life drama as portrayed in Citizenfour (2014) struck me as more exciting than anything in Spectre. Sam Mendes admits that Spectre reflects our "post-Snowden" era that raises questions like "What does surveillance mean?" and "What do we have to do to maintain our security and privacy?" 














Meanwhile, Daniel Craig glowers in his tight suit just before he fist fights a bad guy in a helicopter over the crowded square in Mexico City. Glower, glower, glower. Fight, fight, fight. Craig reportedly worked out an insane amount to prepare for this role, and I sometimes wished that he would lighten up a bit. He's a dutiful, surly Bond. As Craig said, "I'd rather break this glass and slash my wrists," instead of appear in another Bond film. The further the Bond series goes on, the more serious and gloomy it gets, just like the later Harry Potter movies. Craig almost makes me miss the mellower air of Roger Moore.

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