Precious Bodily Fluids

From Russia With Love

(Thanks again, DVDBeaver)

(Thanks again, DVDBeaver)

The second, and probably second-best James Bond film, From Russia With Love has a charming pizazz that compensates for fairly weak choreography and what is apparently a notable departure from Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name. It’s difficult to observe major motifs in this film, probably for a lack thereof. All that stand out are various superficial progressions that signal franchise conventions and a couple notable exceptions. A theme of vicious doubling seems to be present, first seen in the opening sequence. SPECTRE bad-guy Red Grant (Charles Shaw) hunts and is hunted by Bond, strangles him, then reveals to the audience that it wasn’t actually Bond but a lookalike. Later, “Number One” illustrates a point by showing his underlings a fish that deceives its prey by appearance, then exhausts it and eats it. Later still, two Gypsy women are forced to fight hand-to-hand for the right to marry a particular man. It almost seems that this theme is coincidental or present for its own sake rather than for a larger idea. More significantly, this film is self-consciously a film. The opening scene ends with a sort of curtain-dropping. What had seemed to be a man-on-man hunt was a theatrical dress-rehearsal; the lights come on and the audience applauds. When Bond first goes to bed with Tatiana, it turns out that they are being filmed, peeping-tom style through a one-way glass behind the bed. (The way this scene is shot, and its historical proximity to Powell/Pressburger’s film admit its debt.) It’s later revealed to Bond that they were visually violated, and the film’s last scene has Bond holding the film reel in his hand and throwing it from the Venetian gondola into the Adriatic. The Bond films all tend to cut and run, cinematically speaking, when Bond beds his woman. This early film sets the stage for such subsequent veilings, insisting that even a womanizer like 007 deserves his privacy.

This entry was published on July 3, 2009 at 7:59 pm. It’s filed under 1960s Cinema, American film and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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