In two different plays, adapted from two different films, and by two different directors (one Belgian and one French), two women—“of a certain age,” someone, more likely than not a man, might write colloquially, garden variety sexism dotting the fibrous page—look into the mirror and see their unsavory fates, and the loss of what was once so promising, even if under a particular paradigm. They’re two actresses playing actresses in play adaptations of films about plays, and theatre, and performance, and all of that baggage. One actress, Margo Channing (Gillian Anderson), reacts to her growing obsolescence with venomous wit, peppered in with drunken desperation. The other, Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) responds with a sort of actorly paralysis, like the yips, and also with sloshed conduct. And as two live feeds amplify and project the frustration and neuroses these women are experiencing, men loom in the background, flattening it all for the sake of their own thrill.
It’s fairly interesting that, at least in New York, that the international broadcast of the National Theatre’s production of All About Eve, directed and adapted by Ivo van Hove, and the United States premiere of the stage adaptation of Opening Night, directed and adapted by Cyril Teste, should “run” in such close proximity to one another, mere weeks apart. They’re effectively very similar texts, with equally iconoclastic leading roles for women, and presented in not dissimilar, but extremely disheartening ways. It could be argued that the films from which these plays are adapted are in dialogue with one another, and, in a way, so are the adaptations themselves, though I would really designate it as a pompous shouting match that grates on the ear than a conversation. Read the rest of this entry »
After the release of Die Another Day (2002), the future of James Bond was in flux. Though the film had become the highest grossing one in the franchise’s history, Die Another Day tapped into a kind of ridiculousness that was, even for a series whose real life veracity was rarely ever of concern, unpleasant for most critics and fans. An invisible car, DNA replacement therapy, Madonna trying to act. In an effort to recall an old fashioned Bond, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade began to adapt Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, and, in the midst of a litany of legal issues regarding the rights to the series between MGM and Sony Pictures, (perhaps) inadvertently imbued Bond with a sense of what critics noted as world weariness. Casino Royale finally saw its release in 2006, and this new Bond colored by misanthropy was an element amplified by Craig’s style of acting, at once brutish and cognizant that the very anger and figiidty was itself a shield for vulnerability. This Bond was a hardened, human Double O, more aware of his sociopolitical climate, and of himself, than he had been before. This kind of disdain for his own iconography would continue to inform the subsequent films, becoming more and bitterer, angrier, and numbed, peaking in Spectre, where you get a sense that Craig (and the writers) don’t sincerely believe that Bond should even exist within a contemporary context.
So, while the evolution of the Bond films has grown grittier, darker (per Roger Deakins), dustier (per Hoyte van Hoytema), and even, if one is to believe the opening text of Spectre, deader, we enter a fantasy version of spying under the guise if “how it used to be”, but whose superficiality and very cleanliness is as indicative of the same sort of cynicism. Opening with a bunch of archival footage splashed in red, it’s not that images of Berlin being bifurcated is indicative of communism, but in sardonicism. It makes its “verisimilitude” stylish in a way that conventional filmmaking declares it shouldn’t be. Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the 1960s show, also not coincidentally conceived by Ian Fleming, The Man from UNCLE is selling a poisoned love letter to the past and present. (Even the font of its subtitles is funny!) Read the rest of this entry »
At twice the cost of its predecessor Dr. No, the nearly $2 million budgeted From Russia with Love was the fuse that existed between Dr. No’s match and Goldfinger’s stick of dynamite, the explosion setting waves through cultural history for decads to come. The 1963 sophomore effort from producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman has an interesting place in Bond history: it’s one of the very few Bond films that is at once not married to the formula that Goldfinger solidified and but features several of those prototypical elements without diluting it as a kind of standalone film. Read the rest of this entry »
Toil and Trouble: The Repression of Women in the American Dream and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby
(Author’s Note: This was my final paper for my Film and Dream class.)
Looking over Manhattan almost with a glare, the lavish apartment complex that Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) tour is the stuff that dreams are made of. He’s a somewhat struggling actor, she’s… what is she? Rosemary is Guy’s wife. And as he begins to ascend into fame, and she is left with little more to do than take care of their as yet unborn child and fend off the nosey neighbors, an anxiety oozes into her mind that seems not to concern her husband. They may have finally made it, they may have finally achieved the American Dream, but that dream, as represented in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, is regressive, serves only to benefit men, to repress women, and uphold a restrictive familial ideal. It’s really just another nightmare. Read the rest of this entry »
My contempt for the Bond formula has been extensively chronicled, especially my blame against Goldfinger for starting it all. It was thrilling, therefore, to see Casino Royale go in another direction, a very “back to basics” version of the franchise that was reminiscent of even earlier entries in the series, Dr. No and From Russia with Love. In those films, action, plot, and character were balanced precariously, yet perfectly. And in Casino Royale, that balance was brought back; Bond was suave without being a superhero, the political context was intact without being a punchline, and the stakes were high enough without a muddled plot.
Skyfall went somewhere else. It is unlike any other Bond film in the rest of the franchise. It literally is something else. And James Bond is someone else. At its core, it resembles 1995’s GoldenEye and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but I’d hesitate to call such a comparison disingenuous because the former is one of the best Bond films, and certainly Pierce Brosnan’s best entry, and The Dark Knight is one of the strongest superhero films in recent memory. It’s that tone of morbidity of the latter, and its re-envisioning of its character, which seems to inform how many perceived what some might call The Nolanization of James Bond. Read the rest of this entry »