The other weekend, I went down to the Bell TIFF Lightbox Theatre to see the “007: Fifty years of James Bond style or something like that. The exhibit features bits of bric-a-brac from 50 years of Bond movies (although not from the most recent Skyfall).
First thing, I couldn’t quite believe how popular the exhibit was. When I arrived at opening time, there was already a line up. Still, I didn’t have to wait too long, and it was the final weekend. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised; a few weeks ago, I went to see Skyfall, and ended up having to sit in the front row because the theatre was so packed.
What is the enduring popularity of Bond?
Let’s face it, Bond was a murderous womanizer who happened to work as a licenced thug for British imperialism. This aspect of the Bond character makes an appearance in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary gentlemen series in “The Black Dossier.” There he reprises his role as a murder and rapist, cheerfully murdering Emma Peel’s father and Bulldog Drummond on behalf of the CIA. Bond makes a small appearance in part 3 of 1900 in a nursing home syphilitic and senile but kept alive in agony by Emma Peel who has now risen to the rank of M. And then there’s the matter that in the Flemming Bond novels, a disproportionate number of villains seem to be either Jews or Asians. Something I didn’t notice when I read, and loved, the Bond novels as a child.
But I digress. Perhaps it’s the allure of the spy. Wouldn’t it be cool to be a spy? Flashy gadgets and the glamorous women were all written into the script. Alas, the reality is a bit duller: John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (recently made into a marvellous film) is likely a lot closer to the truth. As to the nature of Bond, it reminds me of when I used to read the movie reviews in Socialist Worker. The paper would feature any film that had some tenuous connection to a progressive nature, magnify it into “anti-capitalism” and then complain the film didn’t call for socialist revolution. It’s entirely possible to disagree with the politics of a character or a film and still like the art. Life would be very dull indeed if we had to adhere to the party line.
The exhibit itself was really fascinating. Among the items were props such as the Scaramanga’s last remaining original golden gun, Oddjob’s hat (I made the mistake of wearing a derby hat), Jaws’ teeth and Rose Klebb’s dagger shoes. What struck me was how cheesy some of the artifacts looked up close. It’s the magic of the movies that matters.