Sunday, March 13, 2011

Choose your next witticism carefully Mr. Bond, it may be your last.

No 166 - Goldfinger
Director - Guy Hamilton

I have been following the excellent Blogalongabond since its inception, and now as they reach their third month, they have finally come to a Bond film which makes my list... therefore I can jump onto The Incredible Suit's coat-tails and try to explain why Goldfinger is such an important film for the Bond canon; why it's the film in which Bond finally seems to find his voice...

The first two films in the Bond canon create a world of action and adventure - but they are still very much spy films, not necessarily obvious 'Bond films' compared to the structure which becomes so key to future episodes. And many of the elements which are now famous and integral to Bond tradition stem from this film.

This is the film where Bond becomes a lot wittier, dropping one liners and innuendo all over the place (though it would be 35 years before the undisputed peak of Bond's smutty rubbish puns). It is the film where we finally meet Q branch - a circus of destruction and organised chaos, overseen by the arch-eyebrowed genius of Desmond Llewelyn's Q - which is barely even hinted at when Q delivers a suitcase in From Russia with Love. Not only that, but a suitcase (even one with gas and hidden money) is nothing compared to the gadgets and gizmos which creep out of Q branch post-Goldfinger. The film's big toy is another Bond staple - The Aston Martin DB5; a car which will forever be linked to the Bond franchise.

Goldfinger secures the Bond tradition so tightly that it is still, after all these years, the go-to film for Bond parodies (You Only Live Twice being perhaps the only competition).
It is also so confident that it manages to give us the entirety of the new Bond structure in a mini adventure before the opening credits.

We don't get to see all of Bond's missions here. After all, they're not all as dramatic and dangerous as those that make it to film. So instead, we get to see one of Bond's missions which seems to go effortlessly. It is also here that we see how dangerous and how efficient Bond is as he whizzes through a series of events which include fights, visual humour, explosions, women, one liners and generally looking suave as hell. Everything that makes Bond Bond. Everything that is set up throughout the film. Everything which is now synonymous with Bond. It's all there in the 4 or 5 minutes before the credits roll and the film begins...

It is incredible... and yet before you have time to really appreciate it, you're hit by something else. Something all the more incredible:

Goldfinger is one of the most incredible songs. Not just an incredible Bond theme - one that has never been matched (though I do love Live and Let Die and would rank it a strong #2) - but an incredible song, a pinnacle of not just Bassey, but British pop. Full stop.

The following instalments have all tried to capture the passion, romance, seduction and danger which trembles so effortlessly throughout it. If the marvellous Bond film doesn't give you goosebumps, this song alone will.

It is just brilliant. A faultless bit of music.

Now I realise that I've spoken LOADS about this film without even getting into the main story, but hopefully what's clear is that to discuss Goldfinger, you discuss everything that is right about the Bond franchise - creating a unique entity in the spy genre but keeping it restrained enough that it doesn't ever become parody.

There are further elements of the film which I wish to discuss, but first:

An Intermission

Erno Goldfinger was an architect, a founding member of the modernist movement. He created a lot of cuboid concrete buildings. Those ugly buildings that are characteristic of 60's architecture. I appreciate design, but these aren't the nicest or most exciting buildings.
The issue arose when he wanted to create his own home, 2 Willow Road. In order to do so Goldfinger had to demolish some old cottages which stood on the grounds.

There were a lot of protesters who were against this. One of these people was none other than Ian Fleming. He was so outraged that he named his villain after the architect as a mark of his displeasure. Erno successfully sued and was paid damages and given six free books. As a final mark of anger, Fleming threatened to rename the character Goldprick...

You can still visit 2 Willow Road as it is owned by the National Trust. The perfect place for a Blogalongabond family day out.

End Of Intermission

The reason I gave Goldfinger such an excellent intermission is that, in the film, he isn't that great a villain. He isn't a terrifying physical presence (though he is a big man) and he isn't the Machiavellian plotter of say Blofeld... He is just an utterly ruthless and very intelligent businessman.

No, there is but one real star when it comes to the villains:

Oddjob has a lot of useful characteristics. Of course the main one is that if he is kneeling, most people can't see him in multi-player Goldeneye... but believe it or not, his skills go even further than that.

Firstly he is super iconic, mainly due to his weaponised bowler. Now, I like a villain to stay sharply dressed - but considering that his bowler hat is weighted enough to chop the heads off marble statues, it must be fucking heavy.

must have one hell of a sore neck.

Overall, he's just cool - he's a cracking butler and a fabulous villain. But his main triumph is being instantly recognisable; a sharp suited Korean who can kill you with a bowler hat. A smaller angry Jeeves.

Goldfinger manages to produce a lot of iconic images. Whether with Villains or with Bond girls, they are recognisable and immediately linked to Bond.

All in all, there are a fine variety of women on offer here. But I'm not going to talk about the Mastersons (after all, there is nothing more to add to Jill's character that hasn't been said in the above picture, and Tilly is hardly exciting) - instead we're going to talk about one of the most famous Bondgirls, and the first to really start the trend of ridiculously sexual, barely double-entendre names. Pussy Galore (seriously, who would name their child Pussy Galore?!)

Pussy is an interesting character for several reasons. Firstly, she is in a position of power, armed with her own air force of sexy jump-suited blondes. Secondly (and most importantly) - she has the weakest character arc ever.

Watch the sequence in the barn. This is the turning point, where Pussy goes from assisting Goldfinger in his villainous schemes to helping Bond.

You don't even need to watch the scene. Just look at the freezeframe Youtube provides. Bond's powers of seductions are, um, RAPE. It doesn't matter that Pussy learns to love it, and that they later have more willing parachute sex. This is just not a good set up.

I'm sorry to say this, and I know Bond has always been famed for his misogynistic views, but here he is frankly a borderline rapist....

Which kind of ends the blog on a sour note.

So let's lighten the mood, eh James?