Monday, August 27, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "You Only Live Twice" (1967)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

Some of the best stories ever told are the ones “aimed” at children but intended for minds of all ages. They have a freedom of imagination and an insight unclouded by too many presuppositions and too much knowledge. One thinks of C.S. Lewis or the stories collected by the brothers Grimm. Roald Dahl would fall into this category of storyteller, although his are full of more delightful darkness and fun observations than wisdom, strictly speaking. When we realize that Dahl and Fleming were friends and that the studio turned to Dahl to adapt one of the Bond stories we suddenly see the whole series in a new light.

The Bond stories are simply a distorted form of a child’s tale; one where the children have a precocious (but not mature nor real) knowledge of sex. That is why they are full of adventure and fancy but also underdeveloped plots and characters.  It is also probably why they are so popular in our modern, western culture.

In this case, at least, we get a better story because we get Dahl’s capacity to dream up an outrageous but believable yarn. This is certainly the most fantastic story we have been given so far. And yet it is in some ways the timeliest. Up until now the stories have dealt with aspects of the cold war without addressing it directly. Here we have, for the first time, the two superpowers at each other’s throats with the smaller, more rational intelligences of Britain and Japan saving the world. We had something of this in the beginning of “From Russia with Love” with Specter trying to play the US and Russia against each other, but this is the first time they are shown to be small minded and silly.

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