watching bond as a series

Apart from quantum of solace, which I do not yet own on DVD, and Skyfall for obvious reasons, I just completed my task to rewatch all the James Bond films. It has taken me about a month, and I’m quite sure irritated Lyn, who does not seem to share my interest in double O Seven. I went through them in chronological order by year of release, watching one every day or so. That way I thought I’d get a pretty decent overview of the entire series from which I’d be able to draw some insightful conclusions. The bond franchise has fascinated me for quite some time, but I’m not sure why. I thought viewing the entire series in one go might shed some light on it: who knows, I thought it might finally help me get passed my fascination.

Predictably, of course, it had the opposite effect, and I’m more intrigued than ever. Mind you, my relationship with these films certainly has changed; I now feel I know them far better. I had thought, for example, that I’d come out of this experience having a favourite Bond, but I’m not sure I do. Connery was less violent than I remembered, but no less suave; I was surprised by how taken I was with George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as it was the most touching and emotional by far, and I thought Lazenby made a fine bond. He should have done more. Dalton was just as convincing, if more brutal and sullen. Mind you, I think I need to rewatch License to Kill, as I think I missed a few plot points. I think The Living Daylights was one of my favourites. Brosnan is the bond of my youth: I thought he made a very persuasive bond, an I enjoyed his four films more than I expected, although I found his last, Die another day, rather lackluster. He was then replaced, of course, by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale – bond as his creator intended.

All of these actors have similar traits; they all play Bond, to varying degrees, with some reference to the original character. The exception to this, of course, is Roger moore. I was surprised how much I dislike Moore. I had been looking forward to Live and Let Die and The Spy who Loved Me, but once I started the Moore Vintage, I found his films formulaic and cartoonish. This is rather ironic, because in a way it was because of moore that I first became interested in James bond. This may sound silly, but, lying in bed watching TV one night during my childhood, I stumbled upon the end of the Alan Partridge Show, where Partridge was reenacting the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me. Something in his performance appealed to me, although I can’t put my finger on quite what. From that point on I was hooked on bond: somehow seeing that sketch caused my fascination with the entire franchise. From then on I counted the beginning of that film as one of my Willemeean/Keathlean ‘Cinephiliac Moments’, and adore Carly Simon’s theme for that film. I still do, and relished seeing that part of the series when I watched it last week. Yet, when I viewed as a whole, within the context of the other bonds, I found Moore’s bond gravely disappointing. In particular, I found Moonraker, his fourth, not only by far the worst Bond film but possibly one of the most appalling films ever made. The plot makes no sense, the effects naff; it lacks depth and intrigue. It was such superficial bollocks that I watched the next three films in one day, just so I could get past Moore. The next two, for Your eyes Only and Octopussey, weren’t much better (although I might give them the benefit of the doubt and watch them again, given that I had an absence during Octopussey, so it did not have my full attention), but I thought the last Moore, A view To A Kill, was a little better. In all, however, I found Roger Moore by far the worst bond.

Perhaps one of the reasons for that is that all the others have something in common: some resemblance to a character created by Ian Fleming. Of course, they are all different, but they all had something I felt Moore’s bond Did not. His bond had nothing to do with Fleming: he may have drank martini and introduced himself in the right way, but somehow his were not bonds.

What is it, then, about this character which draws me? I had hoped this project would help me find out, but it hasn’t. bond is a cold, heartless killer, whom I should despise, but he intrigues me. I could write a lot more about this series, chronicling its component parts – I’m sure entire books could be and have been written about what fascinates us about this cold, loveless, government assassin. Frankly, however, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I could make some general points, noting how the early bonds, say from Connery to Moore, all roughly follow the same diegetic formula: Bond introduced, baddy introduced, Bond goes after baddy, bond finds woman; woman and bond go find baddy, usually have dinner; bond kills baddy. Explosion! End. This formula, which in the early films seems part of the very definition of bond films, is broken with when Dalton starts to play Double O Seven, although some elements of it appear in some of Brosnan’s films.

I also think there is much that could be written about my experience in viewing these films. As I said, I viewed them in quick succession, sitting down in front of my computer on most afternoons for about twenty days. This had an interesting effect: I must record that I sometimes found my memories of one film merging into another, especially with the earlier, more formulaic films. This may have been due to the fact that I watched them so rapidly that they didn’t have chance to ‘sink in.’ It might be because I always watched them in the same place, usually around the same time of day. Maybe it was a combination. Either way, it is interesting to note that only with a franchise such as this carry out such extensive viewing projects, and I would be interested in examining how such prolonged viewing experiences relate to established theoretical concepts like the rarity of a film and the ‘Aura’. It was only due to the advent of the DVD box set that I could just sit down and pop a bond flick on every day, something in stark contrast to the cinephiles of previous generations, fascinated by film in part because they were often so difficult to get hold of or watch. It would be great to compare and contrast the two form of viewing, especially in relations to writers like Keathley, Pomerance, and Bazin.

To go deeper would be fascinating. To go much deeper into trying to establish who this man is, how he functions semiotically and culturally and what he represents, however, I would probably have to watch the whole series again (making notes this time), and while I would be up for that, I think Lyn might kill me. Moreover, rather than confining my observations to a blog entry, I think I would need to do it in some kind of thesis, and I already have one of those to complete as it is. Before I go and get Dr No out of it’s box again, then, there is time to get my hands on a Quantum Of Solace DVD, read up on the subject, wait for the release of Skyfall, and teach our Pas how to mix the perfect Martini.

Addendum – my updated opinion of roger moore can be read here

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