Reviewing Three Classic James Bond Films

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched three classic James Bond Films on Netflix. It’s important to note that with any James Bond film, you need to engage in a suspension of disbelief. The films are as much fantasy as reality. Mike Myers and the Austin Powers trilogy‚ made millions in pointing out some of the hilariously bad plot holes in the classic Bond movies. Still, I still find it fun to suspend my own disbelief and enjoy two hours of adventure from a bygone era every once in a while. Here are my thoughts on the three classic Bond films that I recently watched.

Goldfinger

1964
Director – Guy Hamilton
Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and Gert Fröbe

goldfingerThe summit of Sean Connery’s tenure as James Bond, this was my favourite of the three films that I watched. Connery is clearly in a groove. This was his third Bond installment and we find an actor completely at ease, bringing the character to life with his own unique twist that will never be reproduced. (“You’re a woman of many parts, Poosy”) It’s also in this film that Bond gets his trick car, the Aston Martin, and begins the tradition of his witty banter with Q, which would become a hallmark of Bond films going forward.

A 38 year-old Honor Blackman plays Pussy Galore, quite possibly‚ the most famous Bond girl of all-time. Gert Fröbe was masterful as Goldfinger, but it’s worth noting that his voice was dubbed over by a voice actor, Michael Collins. This is also the film of Oddjob, portrayed by Harold Sakata. Despite not uttering a single line, Oddjob was one of the Bond franchise’s most enduring villains. The Soundtrack for the movie, developed by John Barry is timeless and sounds incredibly fresh.

This is also the film that features a couple of notorious scenes that would never, ever be made today. The infamous “Man Talk moment and a scene in a barn where Bond and Galore finally get together. The comment section of the YouTube video is littered with angry comments describing Bond as a sexual predator.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable Bond entry. If you’re looking for one film to get started on classic James Bond,‚ Goldfinger is the one I recommend. It’s the complete package, bringing both the character and the overall franchise into focus. The plot and acting are both strong enough to carry the film’s good standing into the 21st century.

Live and Let Die

1973
Director – Guy Hamilton
Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour

liveandletdiebdcap4_originalThis Bond film came recommended to me (not naming names!). After watching it, I was thoroughly disappointed. This is Roger Moore’s first appearance as Bond and overall he provides a satisfying rendition of the character. Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) was the Bond Girl of the film, a tarot card reading fortune teller named Solitaire. Unfortunately for Solitaire, her powers are tied to her virginity, which she eventually loses to Bond after the cards foretold their predictable union.

Live and Let Die borrows heavily from blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Bond himself ends up in the seedy black neighbourhoods of 1970s New York City, chasing down the drug‚ lord‚ villains. (“Y’all take this honkey out and WASTE HIM! NOW!”) This plants the film firmly in that era, making it more of a period piece,‚ removing‚ the cross-generational appeal that other James Bond films possess.

My biggest problem with the film is the plot. To me, it felt like Bond was aboard a ride in an amusement park, where he’s transported from one location to another, to see a new site and solve a new problem. Even if you suspend your disbelief, his journey asks too much from the viewer. Some of the deaths and special effects are particularly poor. Bond ends up killing the villain Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big by making him explode like a balloon.

The boat chase scene is one of the more legendary chases in the Bond catalogue. Unfortunately, even that is brought down by the inclusion of the over the top Sheriff JW Pepper, a local, small town buffoon. I think Pepper’s inclusion is meant to satirize the racist cops of the 1970s, but his inclusion takes away more from the chase scene than it contributes and considerably dates the film.

The most memorable scene may be Bond’s escape from the crocodiles.

While this film is important because it’s the first entry to feature Roger Moore, it doesn’t deliver much else. Enjoy the famous theme song by Paul McCartney, skip the movie.

For Your Eyes Only

1981
Director: John Glen
Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol

For_Your_Eyes_OnlyFor Your Eyes Only sees the Bond Franchise enter the 1980s with gusto. This is Roger Moore’s fifth appearance as Bond and while his age does show at some points, this entry was much better than Live and Let Die. The film opens with the death of “Blofeld the Dr. Evil-like villain from prior Bond installments. This bit is unrelated to the plot of For Your Eyes Only, but is nevertheless an enjoyable six minutes, showcasing the Bond franchise at its best.

The stunts in For Your Eyes Only were well done. This film features another classic chase scene, this time with Bond on skis in the Italian Alps where he begins by flying off an Olympic ski jump, then going downhill at breakneck speeds, before ending up on a bobsleigh track. Later‚ in a daring test of nerves, we watch the secret agent‚ climb up the side of a cliff‚ to reach a private sanctuary and confront his nemesis.

The underwater scenes featuring Bond and Carole Bouquet (one of the better looking Bond Girls, in my opinion) are particularly‚ well done. The production value is strong for 1981. I thought that these scenes have held up quite nicely over time.

Roger Moore’s age does pose a bit of a problem in this film or maybe it‚ provides‚ wisdom, depending on your viewpoint. Midway through the film, Bond is introduced to the nubile young figure skater Bibi Dahl (played by Lynn-Holly Johnson), who sneaks into his hotel room and climbs into his bed, naked. In un-Bondlike fashion, the leading man shows restraint and assumes the role of fatherly figure, choosing to protect the young blonde, rather than plunder her.

This is also the Bond movie where 007‚ takes on three evil hockey players in a hilariously bad on-ice fight scene.

Overall this was an enjoyable Bond film. Despite some of its weaker moments, I found myself surfing YouTube the following day to rewatch some of my favourite scenes. There’s a very Bond sense of humour throughout the film, from his disposal of Blofeld to a special appearance by “Margaret Thatcher” and her husband at‚ the end of the film. I would watch it again.

I would like to get through the rest of the Roger Moore films. My understanding is that Moonraker was a particularly strong film, but I’ve yet to see it. Netflix is hit and miss‚ when it comes to the old Bond flicks. According to this article, Goldfinger is about to be purged from the their library.

What did you think of these three films? Do you agree with my reviews? Which classic James Bond films do you recommend? Drop a comment and let me know what you think.

Film Review: It’s Hard Being Loved by Jerks


It’s Hard Being Loved by Jerks (2008)
C’est dur d’être aimé par des cons(original title)
Director: Daniel Leconte – 118 min
Documentary

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, French cinema houses across the country have been screening It’s Hard Being Loved by Jerks, a 2008 documentary that looks back at a legal battle which took place in country’s courts. Here in Budapest, the local French Institute hosted a special screening last week that I was able to attend. While the debate between the right to free speech and sensitivity to Islam has been reignited, in this film we learn that France already lived through this debate almost a decade ago.

In Daniel Leconte’s film we’re transported back to the mid 2000s, when Europe was engulfed in protest, after Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted Muhammad. Shortly thereafter, Charlie Hebdo would eventually reprint the cartoons. One of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, Cabu (who was killed in this year’s attacks) drew an accompanying image commenting on the wave of angry protests engulfing Europe at the time, under the headline “Mahomet débordé par les intégristes” which translates to “Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists.” A frustrated Muhammad is covering his face saying “C’est dur d’etre aimer par des cons which translates to “It’s hard being‚ loved by jerks.

cest-dur-detre-aime-cons-documentaire-diffuse-L-ZJ7l15Shortly after the publication of the cartoons, Charlie Hebdo was taken to court by the Grand Mosque of Paris, the Muslim World League and the Union of French Islamic Organisations in a lawsuit. The documentary takes us through the case, introducing us to the lawyers on each side and the rest of the key players in the affair. We quickly see how French society and its elites mobilized to defend freedom of expression, no matter how provocative.

France’s current President, Françcois Hollande testified at the 2007 court case in support of the publication. “There are certain freedoms that are not up for discussion he told reporters gathered outside the proceedings. Nicolas Sarkozy, who at that time was on his way to becoming President, wrote a strong letter of support, defending the magazine which had often ridiculed him. Sarkozy went on to state in his letter, “Je l’excès de caricature à l’absence de caricature. / “I prefer excessive cartoons to no cartoons at all. Ségolène Royal comes across poorly in the film. Instead of making a public statement, she voices her support through a discreet text message to the magazine’s editor. It’s worth noting these three politicians are some of the biggest names in French politics and come from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.

One of France’s most prominent intellectuals, Elisabeth Badinter testified at the court proceedings. In the clip above, she outlines why it was essential to give Charlie Hebdo freedom of expression by saying: “If the court were to side with the [Islamic] plaintiffs [against the press], we will no longer be able to speak. We’ll be terrorized and there will be silence. Silence will fall onto a democratic society, which will be seized‚ by‚ terror.

Towards the end of the film, we hear from Richard Malka, Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer who went all in with his closing statements. He argued that the Islamic plaintiffs were seeking special treatment by calling for the ban of depictions of Muhammad and in contrast, presented the court some of Charlie Hebdo’s most outrageous drawings targeting other religions. Christianity was particularly targeted, with priests being depicted as pedophiles and images of baby Jesus having his brains blown out by a pistol. The drawings were so outrageous that the entire courtroom was in stitches.

In the end, the judge sided with Charlie Hebdo and threw the case out. Philippe Val, the co-founder of Charlie Hebdo and the de facto star of the film had a memorable reply when asked if he felt validated to see the French Republic side with him and his magazine. He responded: “To see her side with herself. Throughout the film, Val talked about how badly he wanted to win this court case. In the video clip above he tells reporters gathered at the press conference that when he heard then President of France, Jacques Chirac describe the cartoons at as a provocation, he had the impression of living in another country. “Exercising one’s rights is never a provocation in a democracy, he argued.

France has a long history of free speech and an aversion to politically correct groupthink. If Islamic plaintiffs had been able to silence Charlie Hebdo through the country’s own courts, it would have been a direct assault on the nation’s culture. Freedom of expression must be vigorously defended is the overarching message of the film.

This documentary provides excellent context and thoughtful commentary on an issue that France has been wrestling with for years and that many more Western countries will soon have to confront. If you get a chance to watch it in theatres or online, I recommend it.