Bright Lights Film Journal

James Bond Rides the Strip

Finally saw the new Bond and totally freaked out about it. First off, it’s interesting to see Bond as a young man “learning not to trust again” –SPOILER ALERT– by actually falling in love and trying to live a normal life, with all the weeping and acting emotional that such a life entails. In other words, CASINO ROYALE is not a remake of the Peter Sellers version, but a pre-modern re-imagining of the last Bond film that attempted to be this good, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. It’s like every 37 years Bond meets a girl and falls in love for the first time.

The nifty thing about this new Bond approach is the way it remains conscious of the Moebius strip upon which it runs. It is aware, for example, that the entire cycle of Bond films–which stretch from the Cold War straight through to the future–actually involve the surpassing of technologies in real life that were created in the older films as sci fi devices. Consider for example the “full circle” of our post-modern nostalgia over the gigantic “futuristic” computers of the old Bond villains like Dr. No–with their reel-to-reel computer tapes and punch cards–which we watch on plasma screens from super deluxe DVD sets or ultra slim laptop computers. And now Bond is actually younger and the futuristic gadgets he thought were so nifty have not just been invented but have been over-promoted to the point of un-coolness, and promptly forgotten, and his boss has become a woman, and suddenly he is newly promoted to the job he’s had all his life, and he is ready to meet the only woman he will ever love… for the SECOND TIME!

This sort of thing happens on purpose a lot in David Lynch films like LOST HIGHWAY, but in James Bond it happens entirely as a way to keep the films fresh and the character alive, I know that. But that’s what makes digging for Lacanian subtexts all the more rewarding.

One of my favorite theories for life after death and alternate dimensional living is called quantum immortality. I read the phrase in Cliff Pickover’s amazing book, Sex, Drugs, Einstein, & Elves, but actually arrived at a similar theory myself after realizing that alcoholic black-outs proved we would never die as long as we could remember where we were. (more on that some other time). Seeing Bond tonight in his sixth incarnation, in a title-only remake of the film of the book by Ian Fleming, I felt myself lost in a train car of mirrors, traveling the Moebius strip around and around like a tiger chasing its own tail, or serpent eating its own foot, and I loved every first second of it, because I don’t need to have alcoholic blackouts to double back on myself and be assured of the validity of quantum immortality anymore, I have BOND.

Everyone’s talking, for example, about how great it is that this film offers a “stripped down” Bond: no gadgets and space needles and laser beams. Right. Don’t you see, dear reader, what that means when “stripped down” is still using gadgets–such as cell phones, notebook computers, wireless webmail, satellite surveillance–that would blow the minds of Dr. No or Ernst Blodfeldt, that would make them howl with delight? That sort of stuff is, to us, “stripped down.” We have reached the primordial Now of technology already, where there is nowhere higher to go so the imaginary IS the real. With the digital age spinning faster and faster around us we realize it’s impossible to die because we see ourselves re-born before our eyes, right there plain as the phallic nose on your face in the mirror silver screen. How cool would it be in the sequel of they got all the still-alive Bond actors together in one room? You know, like in 2001, when Kier Dullea sits in a room with himself as an old man and then heads back to earth as a star baby?
Another great example of the Bond effect that comes to mind is in the end of TERMINATOR 3 when future, past, future/past, and past/future all suddenly connect and stop into an eternal now with just Clare Danes, two turntables and a microphone… that future when machines take over, baby, that’s already happened. It’s as clear as the “look” on your face, and you know what?? we LOVE it. We invented it after all, and what can’t kill us only makes us smaller, faster, and more efficiently designed.