Friday, January 14, 2011


A new James Bond film has been announced for November 2012, and as a more observant person than me has recognised, that's 22 months away, and there's 22 James Bond films already released. Such a coincidence is too good to pass up, so every month a coterie of bloggers will be watching one Bond and then blogging about it.

I was going to say "like-minded people" but hopefully they won't be. It would be ghastly if it was just x number of people agreeing that "wasn't it really cool when the girl in the bikini came out of the sea?" I'm expecting that rather than a technological circle-jerk where everyone sees the same thing and says the same thing, there should be some interesting differences of opinion.

After all, Bond in and of himself is a cultural icon of questionable merit. Often you would criticise a film for not being faithful to the source material, but when Fleming's Bond drinks, eats, smokes ridiculous amounts while spewing strangely reactionary comments about modern life, wimmin's lib, etc, it's better that the apple falls far from the tree.

To be fair to Fleming, some of the digressions from the books weren't that great either. There is widely assumed to be a nadir in the quality of the Bond films, around the time that Roger Moore wandered onto the film set. I don't know if that's fair: I hope that by watching the whole slew of them, I'll be better placed to opine on such matters. Who knows? It may turn out that the confusing blaxpoitation-lite I remember of Live And Let Die turns out to be a gritty indictment of 70s racial politics.

Or not.

But watching Bond tells us things about ourselves: why are we fascinated by him, and why has this fascination maintained itself through all his Doctor Who-style reincarnations? You have to be careful though; Bond may be a mirror to our identity, but look too carefully into Bond, and he may look into you.1

Looking in the mirror, looking back at me looking in the mirror


I have a theory that one's relationship to the Bond films is similar to football teams. You're loyal to the first one you were exposed to, or at least you're meant to be. If you started with OHMSS, then a Lazenby-ite you should be all your life. You shouldn't be some sort of glory-hunter, switching your affections to Dalton or Brosnan as they arrive with better hair.

The first Bond (I think) I clearly remember was A View To A Kill, one of the few VHS cassettes we had when I was a kid.2 For a time, I don't think I even realised there were other Bonds except Roger Moore. Memory is unreliable but I remember Christopher Walken being evil, Grace Jones drowning, St John Smythe perishing in a car wash, remote control steroids for horses, and a punch-up in a cardboard box packing facility. Plot was garbage about flooding Silicon Valley while Walken's evil air ship floated overhead, and to say more would involve boasting about something I haven't watched for two decades: either I'd be showing off my tremendous powers of recall for something I really shouldn't have, or I'll embarrass myself by getting everything wrong.

Strangely, I don't remember any of the vaunted gadgets. I assume there was a watch of some sort. I also think Kim Basinger was in the film, but my mind must be playing tricks on me, because no woman's film career has survived a Bond film (Judi Dench and Eva Green excepted.) Anyway, all the Bond films end up forming some palimpsest in your memory, probably because you usually ingested them on Boxing Day, soused on booze (if you're a parent) or blitzed on chocolate and sugar (if you were a child). As I rewatch each film (or possibly watch some for the first time) I'm going to try to summarise what each film teaches us, and how it might be distinguished from the rest.

That alone would be rather reductionist. And I like being reductionist, because it provides the opportunity for cheap jibes at Broccoli's output. But that's not enough. Perhaps because I'm scared of the impact of an unadulterated diet of Bond, I'm going to leaven it by watching another espionage-related film, from the same year, each time, and then comparing and contrasting the lessons each one imparts. And then making a crass remark about the film's attitude to Johnny Foreigner.

What will we find out? Will we explain how Goldeneye inspired the most popular video game of my university years? Will people agree that the more times you watch Quantum of Solace, the less disappointed you become? Will people jeer at me for liking On Her Majesty's Secret Service? Will I still like On Her Majesty's Secret Service?

Let's see how it goes...

1 Yes, if Friedrich Nietschze was alive and well today ... He'd be a very old man. And possibly reviewing old films on the internet.
2 I'm not suggesting I had a deprived childhood, destitute of pre-recorded entertainment. It's just a bit odd, looking back, to realise that when my parents, late adopters of audio-visual technology as they were, purchased a double Eric Sykes feature (The Plank/Rhubarb Rhubarb) and one Bond film, and never anything else3. Never that enthusiastic about film, I suppose, although given the image and sound quality of our Amstrad, perhaps they had taken a look and judged quite reasonably not to invest any further.4
3 Well, there was a copy of Dr Zhivago that mysteriously appeared, but I never watched that.
4 Yes, an Amstrad, part of a recurring joke throughout the Eighties, enjoyed throughout the UK. Sorry, I meant a supplier of jolly decent and high quality electronics, not black plastic tat.


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