Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mmm... Bond...

I saw Casino Royale last night - yes, opening night, that’s just how excited I was about the new Bond film. I grew up on Bond, reading the books and watching the movies over and over again with my Bond-loving parents. Rather than comfort food, I have 007 for comfort films. I was thrilled, during my M.A., that we learned cultural theory by way of Bond – Bond and psychoanalysis, Bond and gender theory, Bond and poststructuralism. I was inordinately pleased when Pierce Brosnan, the target of my pre-teen desire as Remington Steele, became Bond. And, aside from Casino Royale’s dull theme song and boring credit sequence, I loved it. But this isn’t a movie review. You can find those elsewhere. And when you do, you might notice how relieved these reviews sound about just how manly Daniel Craig is as Bond. Moore, Lazenby, Dalton, and Brosnan are quickly and summarily dismissed, and we now have, as both the Toronto Star and the New York Times tell us (lifting without acknowledgment from Tony Bennett and Janet Woollacott), the Bond we deserve. A real man. A sweaty man. Or, from the Globe & Mail, “a gloriously old-fashioned, absolutely masculine body.” To pull from the movie’s own poker rhetoric, this is one of popular culture’s tells: the male body as a cipher for deeper anxieties and anger about losing political ground and privilege. Brosnan doesn’t cut it, the Globe says, because he’s “effete . . . too much of a pretty boy.” This latest Bond enacts a complex fantasy of potency and rage and guilt, reassuringly rebuilding a cultural touchstone. Take, for instance, the film’s inclusion of the novel’s muscle-clenching torture scene, in which Bond is strapped naked to a chair and has his genitals mercilessly whipped. While the Globe review complains “Finally, we get a Bond actor with real balls, and the film has to batter them,” that’s precisely the point. What better way to remasculinize the epitome of masculinity, to prove just how real his balls are? Redeeming the ‘blunt instrument’ primarily through violent rather than sexual prowess (though the vicious penis-lashing doesn’t seem to have any real effect on his sexual performance – nothing can defeat the penis!), Casino Royale gives us a Bond that’s not entirely sure what he’s doing is right but is too far in to stop now (Bond films not being particularly well-known for the subtlety of their political allegories). It was a fantastic movie, worth the price of admission just for the phenomenal parkour scene, I'm just, as always, intrigued and amused by the action genre’s compulsive bulwarking and buttressing of white male heterosexuality. Penis pity rather than envy.


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