Living Twicehttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/living-twice/

Living Twice

We grew up watching Bond. He’s grown up too. He still has a weakness for women and martinis but now fights for a cause and against his own demons.

We grew up watching Bond. He’s grown up too. He still has a weakness for women and martinis but now fights for a cause and against his own demons.

The James Bond you like best is usually the one you grew up watching,or so goes the theory. It does not factor in two things. One is that a generation grew up watching two Bonds simultaneously,with a third adding brief variety. In the early ’80s,when the video cassette created a craze that the DVD has never matched,every Bond film made till then came to us in a single glut. My friends and I grew up with Sean Connery,the first Bond,with George Lazenby,Connery’s stand-in for one film,and with Roger Moore,the then current Bond. There goes any theory about fans always identifying with a single Bond.

The other factor is that the newest Bond appeals to older Bondophiles too,not just to those who are in the process of growing up with him. Because of the way he is,his appeal ought to stretch to the Pierce Brosnan generation,and even to the Timothy Dalton generation if you assume that two films are enough to create a generation. Skyfall,here we come,even though your Daniel Craig has destroyed much of what our beloved character used to be.

My,how the boy has grown! He has not totally given up womanising but is now capable of falling in love,something that last happened in 1969 (he married Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but she died). There was a time when he wouldn’t let anything ruffle him and would treat even death as a joke,but today he is disturbed,fighting his own demons. And he is no longer in the job for the fun of it but is carrying out his mission for reasons that his older fans will identify with,having grown up before he did.

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Though he has finally caught up with us,not all of it works. What does and what doesn’t is the stuff a debater’s dreams are made of. It could go on forever,but let’s stop at dividing the fors and the againsts into neat little threes.

The new Bond is obsessively hunting the killers who took his love in his first film and nearly got his boss,M,in his second. It is not just about revenge but also because he cannot get over the fact that Vesper Lynd died to protect him. That’s the first thing going for him. An obsessed,disturbed Bond connects nicely today,just as an arrogantly aloof one (Connery) and a patriotic one enjoying himself (Moore) did 30 years ago.

The new Bond is ruthless,true to the benchmark set for him 50 years ago. Connery,who shot an unarmed Professor Dent in cold blood in Dr No (1962),always rang true as the assassin but the next four Bonds were softer in varying degrees,though I still delight in the humour Moore brought to his killings. Craig,the adult Bond,does not kill without reason but his brutality sets him apart. That’s number two: he’s convincing as someone with a licence to kill. See how he shoots down an unarmed man in an embassy and how he pushes a fellow British agent off a balcony.

And see how sensitive he has become. Distressed at having been the cause of an innocent girl’s murder,he tells M to mention in her report that Strawberry Fields showed true bravery. If you have been watching Bond as long as I have,you will know the sequence this one derives from. It was in Goldfinger,44 years earlier,with Jill Masterson killed in almost identical fashion,getting gold paint where Miss Fields gets oil. Far from mentioning bravery when M ticked him off,Bond stepped out and started flirting with Miss Moneypenny. To teens of the ’80s,it was cool unflappability. To adult fans of today,it would have been cold insensitivity if he did that again.

A Bond who has been so accommodating of the demands of a generation his predecessors hooked,too,deserves our sensitivity. The three things that go against him we will present simply as the three things he needs to do. All are simply old habits he needs to rediscover.

First,we need him as the incurable womaniser once again. Falling in love a second time might have worked in the old westerns,but in Bond it would destroy one of the defining Bond qualities that we still hold dear. The Bond girl,of course,is supposed to have become different today after Brosnan reinvented so many things around him (equality of the sexes,post-Cold War relevance) without reinventing Bond himself. I would like to see the new Bond still go after her,on her terms if necessary,as long as he takes things to their logical conclusion.

He will need the one-liners for that,which is number two on the to-do list. Dalton,the office boy-cum-action man without a sense of humour,restricted the use of the one-liner. Brosnan brought it back but didn’t know when to use it. A running helicopter tied by a rope to Xenia Onatopp has just suffocated her against a tree in GoldenEye and he has to say,“She always did enjoy a good squeeze.” How sick to an adult ear. We loved it as teens,though,when Connery drove a spear through an assassin’s heart in Thunderball and guessed,“I think he got the point.” And when Moore pushed Locque and his car off a cliff in For Your Eyes Only and observed,“He never had a head for heights.” Since the new Bond never jokes about death,and since we no longer want him to,he can restrict the one-liner to his conversations with the Bond girls.

That would include Miss Moneypenny,which is actually the only thing left for him to do. To be able to flirt with her,though,he’ll need help from his creators. Q,one hears,is coming back in Skyfall. Bring back Moneypenny too. And we’ll have the perfect Bond.

SEAN CONNERY

A ruthless killer with a sense of humour and a way with women. Arrogant and aloof,created the impression that he took no one seriously but himself. Six films as the official Bond,one as a rebel.

GEORGE LAZENBY

Stood in for one film after Connery opted out. Would have been forgotten but for the fact that he was the only Bond who married the girl he loved. She was still in her wedding gown when she was killed.

ROGER MOORE

Seven films make him the longest-serving official Bond. He brought in extra humour,often directed at himself,glorified the one-liner,and came across as a Bond who could be unscrupulous.

TIMOTHY DALTON

Two films and gone. A studious type who created the impression he was doing it all for patriotism. Restricted the one-liners but was involved in a couple of hallmark Bond action scenes.

PIERCE BROSNAN

A Bond who came with a plot tailored to make him relevant again after the Cold War. First Bond to report to a female boss,he now allows Bond girls to treat him on their terms.

DANIEL CRAIG

Deeply disturbed Bond,obsessed with personal yet adult agendas that drive him. Matches Connery for ruthlessness but the humour is gone. Begins at Bond’s roots,with one story leading to another,so far.

Three films that had James Bond but were not part of the official franchise

Casino Royale 1954

The first Bond actually came eight years before Sean Connery,one of the littler known factoids about 007. Barry Nelson,now forgotten in history,played an American version of the spy in an hour-long episode of a television series. It’s not an easy film to find but IMDb informs us that Bond works for the CIA,or Combined Intelligence Agency.

Casino Royale 1967

This was meant to spoof the first of the official Bond films,Dr No. Its novelty lay in the number of actors who played the Bond character. Among them were the distinguished Alec Guinness and Woody Allen,who was an American version,“Jimmy Bond”. Ursula Andress,the first Bond girl,appeared here as Bond as well as Vesper Lynd.

Never Say Never Again 1983

Often mistaken for an official Bond film because it had Sean Connery as the secret agent. It was actually a rebel film,a statement by Connery who was still angry at having been replaced 10 years earlier. It came out of Hollywood while all the official Bond films are British productions. It is essentially a remake of Connery’s Thunderball.

Let Girls be Girls

Hasn’t the Bond girl become a woman? What nonsense,says Kabir Firaque

They weren’t called Bond girls when they were without question Bond girls. Even if someone did call them that,he didn’t have the internet to spread the word. The expression seems to have come into circulation during the Pierce Brosnan era,and it sounded just right to describe those lovely people we had known so long. Ironically,the same era also sought to reinvent the image of the Bond girl. And now there is talk that maybe it’s time to reinvent her name too. Even the newest Bond girls seem to think so. Hasn’t the Bond girl become relevant enough to be called a Bond woman? Hasn’t she ceased to be eye candy and become a multidimensional character? Have you ever heard such nonsense?

She may have evolved along with Bond,but even in her evolution,she has retained much of the juvenile qualities we loved about her and acquired a few adult ones that she didn’t have already. A short checklist:

THE NAMES

Honey Ryder,of course,began it all. She would be outmatched two films later by Pussy Galore. No Bond girl has managed to top that name in 50 years. Sean Connery’s other girls included Kissy Suzuki,Tiffany Case and Plenty O’Toole. Roger Moore had Mary Goodnight,Dr Holly Goodhead and Chew Mee. Brosnan,supposedly the re-inventor,couldn’t get rid of Xenia Onatopp,Dr Christmas Jones or Dr Molly Warmflash. Daniel Craig too has been looking for names,though the girls haven’t made it easy for him. Vesper Lynd rejects the alias he offers her: Stephanie Broadchest. It was the other girl who did have a name,though she tried to hide it. She insisted on being called only “Miss Fields” and died without revealing her secret. But these days we have the internet and IMDb lays it bare: Strawberry Fields. Now that’s what I call a Bond girl.

THE CHARMS

It’s one of those old-world values that she’s upheld,whether you call her a Bond girl or a Bond woman. She may have as many dimensions as you want to give her,but she retains what it takes to be eye candy.

THE GAMES

The old Bond girl would drop the cue for a Bond one-liner,usually a double entendre:

Old Bond (Connery): Weren’t you a blonde when I came in?

Tiffany Case: Could be.

Bond: I tend to notice little things like that ― whether a girl is a blonde or a brunette.

Miss Case: Which do you prefer?

James Bond: Well,as long as the collar and cuffs match…

You may change the rules of the game,but they will still play. The new Bond girl will often be the one to have the last word,and a sarcastic one at that:

Vesper Lynd: So as charming as you are,Mr Bond,I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money and off your perfectly formed a**.

New Bond: You noticed?

Miss Lynd: Even accountants have imagination.

Does being so sure of herself make her a Bond woman? If you search your memory hard enough,truth will prevail:

Old Bond (Moore): My name is Bond. James Bond. I’m looking for Dr Goodhead.

Holly Goodhead: You just found her.

Bond: A woman!

Dr Goodhead: Your powers of observation do you credit,Mr Bond.

No less sarcastic,and she had the last word here too. If Dr Goodhead was a Bond girl,it makes Miss Lynd one too,no?

THE CHARACTERS

Making Bond’s boss a woman is a wonderful touch,but M is not among those facing an identity crisis. Innocent office girl Miss Fields is murdered because she was with Bond,as was Goldfinger’s girlfriend Jill Masterson four decades earlier. Miss Lynd,an accountant,captured the new Bond’s heart,but Tracy Draco,a countess,had actually married an old Bond. Former spy Camille Montes is driven by a thirst for revenge for her parents’ murder,but student Melina Havelock had been there,done that in 1981. What new multiple dimensions are they talking about?

What has changed is Bond,and therefore the way he and the girls deal with each other. Dint’s bottom was there to be slapped by the sexist Bond of the ’60s. Solitaire was convinced by the unscrupulous Bond of the ’70s,who doctored her tarot cards,that her destiny was to sleep with him — a fit case for rape today. Miss Lynd “sizes up” the new Bond the moment she sees him. And Miss Moneypenny,who suffered for decades the unfulfilled promises of the old Bonds’

flirtations,showed the newer Brosnan his place and still exchanged double entendres with him.

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Let them evolve for Bond if they must,but let them remain Bond girls for us. They deserve better than to be called names.