Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Bond A Week: Following The Trail (The Connery Years)



The first, and introduced as first-person narration: Bond exists inside the frame as character, and outside it as narrator of his own adventures. Hedging their bets, the producers structure their images and narration around Ian Fleming's famous name (Sean who?), and the beauty of their travelogue images. But what's this interjection of Bond back into the narration? Who's in control of this story, anyway?



In some ways, the most sensuous part of this trailer for me is the "UA" tag at the beginning: slow, teasing, and only revealing itself in a visual and musical flourish at the end. Until then, we have to strain to see make sense of the action-- the suspense starts even before Bond appears on the screen.



Bond as Constructivist art: far more text-driven than the earlier trailers, this one flashes Bond's name across the screen like a password for cool, a brand as recognizable as Coca-Cola. I love the way the "o" in Bond's name looks like a martini olive.



The connecting threads here are sonic: the omnipresent Bond theme, and the narrator's voice, pitching Bond like a brand of soap: "hallmark of today's greatest entertainment!" Neither the images nor the narration reveal plot details the way the earlier trailers did: for this most sensuous of the Connery Bonds, the images float without captions or context, simply flashes of meaning that the producers wisely choose not to explain.



Shorter, tighter, and blunter than those in the past, this trailer is actually more entertaining than the film it advertises. By now, the character/star match is complete: "Sean Connery is James Bond," and Bond is a series of visual signifiers, as narrative context gives way to fetishes centered on sex, violence and style (the narrator's voice is also tougher and more monotone: hype in the age of Lee Marvin).



Is Bond still Bond? The red car zooming down the Vegas streets looks like an image out of any American action film or television show, and there's no theme music, narration or flashing "OO7!" superimposition to tell us who the driver is. The "he" the narrator will refer to a moment later isn't even Bond, but Sean Connery, M.I.A. for the previous entry in the series, but back as a reassuring image of continuity and nostalgia: "We're back, to what great movies are all about." But the trick of Bond in the 60s is that, for all his political conservatism, his dandyish style is a radical gesture in the face of action movie tradition. The trailer's aesthetic backtracking predicts the character's fate in the 1970s: while many of the films are entertaining, Bond will sacrifice his position as stylistic avatar, and become a figure of comfort food campiness.

3 comments:

Jonathan Lapper said...

I think I like the Dr. No one the best if only because it introduces everything, and I mean everything: The circles, the name, the music, the lairs, and on and on.

And that UA logo was a favorite of mine as a kid. I wish it was still around.

Brian Doan said...

I love that logo, too-- it always felt like it was taking me into some magical, cinephiliac world, enhanced by how it seemed to appear slowly out of nowhere.

And that Dr No tralier is fascinating-- I don't know if it's my favorite, but I love the way it shifts registers between Bond's voice and the omniscient narrator.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Hey by the way, I expect you to take part in game tomorrow. If someone wins that I don't know I'll be peeved.