Thursday, November 22, 2012

Skyfall: Giving Thanks for Bond, from Thy Bounty and IMAX

"Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky" Luke 10:18

Since it's nearly Thanksgiving, I frame my experience of this new Bond as I was very grateful to see Skyfall yesterday in an IMAX theater.  The cinematography at that scale is truly breathtaking, delivering a glorious visual transcendence for the viewer.

I didn't read any reviews beforehand, but you bring your own relationship to the character and the films with you as you climb the steep IMAX stairs.  For me, it's Connery. Full stop. Moore and Dalton not at all; Lazenby because of Tracy; Bronsan, catching each film years later on TV.

And then Craig, who got me to enter an actual movie theater. I loved Casino Royale and liked Quantum more than many.

Quick Side Thought: What Timeline Are We On?
Can someone point me to an understanding of the Bond character timeline? I believe that Casino and QOS are the character before we meet him in Dr. No. That's why he's not the bantering, ironic 007 we know. He hasn't become that person yet, we are learning about his earlier years. I think that Skyfall is also pre-Dr. No., emphasized by the introduction of Eve, but confused by bringing out the "old" Aston Martin. Any thoughts?

Hail, Britannia & Hooray for Hollywood
For me one of the joys of watching Skyfall was its unabashed celebration of British culture, and the sheer artistry of big-budget Hollywood. These are both deeply flawed institutions, but as I looked around the packed theater, I was impressed, not for the first time, by the power of storytelling——a phrase that has become trite in overuse, but which makes it none the less true. (One missed opportunity for the complete British cultural orgy: they should have shown a little of Bond's funeral so that we could have had a bit of the great choir of St. Paul's, offering the highest art of choral singing that there is.)

Watching the stunning opening credit sequence was like experiencing a video art installation, but instead of there being a handful of people in an art gallery, we were hundreds strong. We were a legion of average looking people, enjoying those exquisite bodies, clothes, and locales, seeing our own daydreams writ large, with a great soundtrack on a great sound system. This was truly the first time as a moviegoer I felt a real sense of escape from personal and world problems that I cannot control. Thanks, James.

Herein I Learned the Word "Recusant"


No one goes to a Bond film for the plot, but there was buzz that this film had more to offer in that vein than the rest of the franchise. Whether it does nor is wildly divergent, from yes, to no, to boring.

I did find the forward motion more coherent than the predecessors. WHY DID BOND DROP THAT NECKLACE IN THE SNOW? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Sorry, quantum of frustration holdover.

What I found the most intriguing in Skyfall were the religion undertones, something not lost on the Catholic blogosphere.

M is asked to think about her sins; Silva asks Bond what his hobby is: "Resurrection"; Bond twice has a baptismal rebirth by water; the above quote from Luke may be pushing it a bit, but Skyfall is an unusual phrase. The stag statue at the entrance to Skyfall is symbolic from Medieval times/tapestries:

"The stag is a symbol for Christ, who tramples and destroys the devil. As the stags crossing a river help each other, so should the Christian crossing from the worldly life to the spiritual life help others who grow weak or tired. As the stag is renewed and sheds its horns after drinking from the spring, so those who drink from the spring of the spirit are renewed and shed their sins."

Hmm. And then there's the priest hole & the chapel at Bond's ancestral home, evoking the history of Recusancy. Lots of info over at Wiki, but basically after the Reformation, Recusants refused to attend Anglican services, and could face penalties and prison if found out. The harshest penalties were for Catholic priests, and so landed Recusant families build priest holes to hide them, which often had underground passages for the priest to escape the home unnoticed after saying Mass for them.

So our dear Bond is from an old Scottish Recusant family, and we see from the shot of her tombstone that his mother was French—Monique nee Delacroix Bond—likely French Catholic. Now, this is a very specific, somewhat odd creative choice from the writing team of Purvis, Wade, & Logan, wouldn't you say. They could have gotten M & Kincaid out of that house in many other ways that would not have raised the idea of his religious background.

The scene in the chapel gives us a reverse Pieta of the son cradling the dying mother in his arms. Again, a very specific creative choice. Or we have wondered unknowingly into a Graham Greene novel.

(This blog has a lot of interesting information of the real-life models for the Bond manor house with the priest hole.)

Suspension of Disbelief
The film has a lot of unnecessary holes. Someone pointed out that Kincaid says "all we have is your father's rifle" when it's clearly a shotgun. My favorite is there is no way a criminal of Silva's stature would not be in chains, and under video surveillance.

But that's the poetry of it all: willing suspension of disbelief.

I don't know what the series's new-found spiritual side may mean for the future. The sense that life is cheap and disposable in the spy game is still at odds with the tenets of any organized religion.

But it adds an interesting dimension to this cultural touchstone, something I am culturally thankful for.

Happy T-Day everyone! Definitely go see Skyfall!


Eddie said...

EUTSTrExcellent Blog! You were certainly much more observant than me. I have to admit that when the garage doors opened, and the Aston Martin revealed, there were tears in my eyes. The entire audience gasped.
I have read all the books, from beginning to end in order. There is even a book, which I found a very interesting read. It may help clear up some of the mystery for you. Who could even know if it is true, but it was a very interesting read none the less.
My thoughts are that this is the latest Bond adventure, although happily so, there are a lot of references to the earlier Bond days. That is one of the things I enjoyed most about the movie, having read all the earlier works, (by Flemming, and a smattering of the others).
I will certainly watch it again to learn more about the religious overtones. The resurrection thing is interesting. The biography I mentioned above contends, of course, that Bond was a real agent. He was so good, that his enemies, made numerous attempts on his life. Flemming who was a part of MI6 began writing the "greater than life" character novels to kind of try and throw his enemies off track in that no one human being could possibly be that good, hopefully leading them to believe that they were barking up the wrong tree chasing the great spy. Of course, I'm sure the resurrection overtones run deeper than that, but it would appear that is where they got the original idea of killing Bond off, to try and hide him.
I am in total agreement with you. Connery is Bond. Period. The Flemming books were written almost as if he already had the idea that Connery would be Bond. Having said that, I think Craig is wonderful. The best choice they have had since Connery. I don't think we will see in Craig the same character we have seen in the other Bonds, per se, the funny, joking, casual, or lighthearted Bond. I could certainly be wrong, but it seems to me that the Craig "Bond, is older, more tired, more cynical, and realizes in a nuclear and more technical age, the stakes are a lot higher than what he has faced in the past.
On a side note. I believe that according to the book by Pearson, Bond's first confirmed hit under his 00 license, was a Japanese businessman in Rockefeller Center, with a sniper shot. He was assisted by another, who shot first to make a hole in the thick glass of the building where the business man was enabling Bond to get a clean shot off by shooting through the hole made by the assistant. A la Robin Hood.
Again, I really enjoyed your post.
Cousin Ed

M.A. Peel said...

Hi Eddie, Happy T-Day! Really glad you like the piece. The Aston Martin reveal was fantastic, along with the music. Lots of lumps in throats.

Craig is definitely a more tired, "older" bond. But they brought him on in Casino Royale, which was the first novel, before Dr. No. So that's why I think he is a different "man" from Connery, etc. That as a character, he lightens up "later"' in his timeline. But nothing is really clear.

This blog has interesting stuff about the real models.

RUnning up to Pat's for Thanksgiving dinner. I'll say hello from you! E.

Eddie said...

Casino Royale, was the first book written, but when they did the movie, they did it as a spoof starring David Niven. It was terribly disappointing, in that the book was perhaps one of the best Bond books ever written. You are much more of a film aficionado than I am, but I would tend to think that using Craig for that film made sense to introduce him as James Bond. It isn't as if they could go back to Connery at this point.