November 29, 2015

Death and the maidens


Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015). Call this evolution: the “Bond girl” names have gone from the sniggering Pussy Galore to the Proustian Madeleine Swann. I really like the gloominess of the Craig-era, Mendes-directed Bonds, and part of that gloominess comes from the intense seriousness of the acting – Daniel Craig, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Belluci, less so Christoph Waltz as usual – and part of it comes from the visual quality but most of it derives, as in Skyfall, from the morbid, death-haunted themes. Bond is an assassin, a death-carrier, and he is bad luck for everyone who associates with him. Death is in the first seconds of Spectre, in Mexico, and stays almost to the end. Dead villains, friends, family and lovers keep being remembered. Bond’s first (most callous) conquest is a widow at a funeral. So it goes. But there are new traces of lightness too, of the glamour and absurdity of the 60s and 70s, as if by popular demand: a romantic train ride through North Africa, a ski setting in Austria, a wildly overlong car chase through the night-time streets of Rome, complete with gadgets, a villain’s secret base in a crater, the erotic-octopus opening credits set to a suitably terrible song. The depression is lifting, but hopefully not too much.