Monday, January 8, 2018

the chinese have a saying

It occurs to me, sitting her with For Your Eyes Only playing once again, that I do not have much else to say about it. I think I've covered whatever my 5-year-old self got out of it. The hidden curriculum of James Bond, anyway. On the surface, I enjoyed it. If, watching this film, you have not seen too many thrillers or spy films just yet (which, me at five--I hadn't seen too many), it's well crafted enough to keep you paying attention. (Though, to be fair, there's no mystery to it, so there's no room for guessing.

But anyway, I guess there is just this:

Bond could have saved himself a lot of time by not going to Spain at all, just heading straight to Greece, finding the wrecked ship (or finding Havelock's notes without the aid of Melina, then finding the wrecked ship--

or better yet, he could have stayed home while a professional diving team working for MI6 goes to find it

--and retrieving the ATAC device, and heading back to London... with maybe one night in a casino to win big with his insane luck and hook up with some random woman.

Melina would have 1) been killed by Kristatos' men after she killed Gonzales or 2) would have gotten away from them without Bond's driving skills and went back to her now-parentless life thinking she had her revenge... Or she would have also gone after Loque, and that would have gotten her killed, but it' snot like Bond would have known anything about it, as he had himself a martini--shaken, not stirred--at his flat in London after hooking up with yet another random woman...






And Lisl would still be alive.






Or, there's this:

It's not good enough to just throw a bunch of setpieces and exotic locations at us. It's not good enough to throw some (supposedly) perfect specimen of manhood at us, a guy who knows everything, is good at everything, and apparently emits pheromones that no woman (or underage figure skater) can resist. Something I really like about the very flawed Quantum of Solace, for example, is that James Bond there feels like an actual person, a driven, damaged, and possibly deranged person, but a real person, with flaws and things he cannot do. Roger Moore's James Bond is a hyper-skilled action hero who's only failure is that he literally cannot be everywhere at once, so the spies who work with him sometimes get killed while he's busy with all his various women. He is essentially a joke of an action hero, and his Bond films, as I remember them, involve some of the most joke moments--the pigeon, the gondola, the horse's ass airplane, the prime minister and her husband, a frickin space shuttle.

Imagine a version of For Your Eyes Only in which it isn't just a series of random people trying to kill Bond. Instead, we can invest ourselves in more than just Bond (and really, that's more because we've been watching him so many times, not because he's got the depth to make us care) and Melina. Or, do focus in on Bond and Melina, but let the cold open matter by tying in Bond's grief over his dead wife be the fuel for helping (and occasionally hindering) Melina. Killing Blofeld's was not enough, revenge can never be sated, and all that. Tell a story with some import to it. Makes us feel it as something other than titillation. Melina specifically references Elektra, and that could have been some real depth. Obvious depth, but at least it would be depth. Instead Bond keeps delaying Melina's revenge and then Columbo takes the final kill anyway.

The best moment of this film, from my perspective now, comes right after that kill. Not Bond throwing the ATAC over the cliff, though that is a nice touch. But, that Bond doesn't just kill Gogol then and there. It's like the spies are all playing a game. Bond won, he doesn't have to rub it in their face. Of course, if he did assassinate the head of the KGB, it would make for a very different film next in the series.

Of course, it's been so long since I've watched most of the Bond films that I didn't realize that Gogol not only appears in six of them (For Your Eyes Only being his third). And, I didn't remember that he had worked with Bond before; 007 Travelers says

Gogol often allies himself with Bond to stave off the possibility of war with the West... Only in "For Your Eyes Only" (1981) and "A View to a Kill" does Gogol act as an enemy but, even then, his actions are more those of a respectful competitor.

Still, imagine if Bond shot him. Hell, since it happened at St. Cyril's, it might have even remained an unconfirmed rumor that Bond did it. But, a series that Roger Ebert describes as Albert Broccolie's "life work", a series that spans decade of novels and films, a series that keeps getting reborn (or just continued without any real sense of the larger continuity) with new actors, I suppose it is a good thing when background characters and villains get to appear more than once. It makes the world feel... if not lived in, at least more than finite.

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