Live and Let Die

Well! I watched this a couple of weeks ago and took copious notes. I would have gotten it written up sooner, but first off, I went to Ikea in Charlotte with my friend Jennifer and bought way way way too much stuff – some of which was super random and I am not sure what the hell came over me – and some of which I am still slowly assembling into the world’s most hygge living room ever. I mean it is so ultra hygge. It is hyggey. It is, even, hyggeriffic, or it will be once I get two strong people over to lift the furniture so I can cram the rug underneath and once I replace the tabletop because I forgot to double check the fucking dimensions and got one that is too small, DAMN IT. I mean it’s so simple to remedy, I get to Charlotte easily twice a decade or so. ARGH. And I don’t want to make a tabletop because it will be like the usual kind of thing I make – halfassed sort of hippie crap only black with, possibly, skulls. I’m too old for spraypainted splintery plywood tables. I embrace hygge now. I want a real table top.

okraSo the living room is almost done but remains a bit in flux and then I caught not the flu but a “flu like illness” which is apparently indistinguishable from the flu in the lungs, ears, eyes, throat, nose and feverish brain of the sufferer. I have spent the last week in bed, which is super sucky because, among other things, I started a photo class at AB Tech last Tuesday night. I need to get my technical chops up to speed, I think, and also I need a bit of a kick in the ass because I feel like I’m slipping back into a rut. Therefore, class, and I came home Tuesday all excited about shooting pictures every single day for my homework and then woke up Wednesday in total misery with a fever.  Then I spent five days in bed, like, literally in bed, sweating, coughing, unable to think or read anything heavier than Angela “pity she was such a fascist because she’s just so damn amusing darling” Thirkell.  Hence pictures like this one, Compositions in Cat and Kleenex.  I went to the doctor this morning and now I’m on steroids for my wheezing lungs and some mysterious cough pill for my hacking cough and tomorrow I get to go back to work, lucky me. I went in for a while on Sunday but didn’t last long.

ENOUGH OF THE PROBLEMS OF TEDIOUS REALITY.  LET US RETURN TO THE LAND OF BOND.

Live and Let Die – a new Bond, a new decade and man, it really shows. This movie is different than the earlier Bonds. The 60s bonds were aspirational, sort of – they reflected this oh so cool sophistication and glamour. Did it really exist? I don’t know, maybe? Sort of? But there was an overall aesthetic there of elegance and smooth, polished surfaces. Very Mad Men. With this movie, though, that’s over and instead it’s all IN YOUR FACE wild and let’s do a lot of drugs and let it all hang out. The whole feeling is different. It’s hard to pin down, exactly, but the pace is more frenetic, there’s a ton more slapstick and there are a lot of rougher edges, rougher streets, just a sort of less sophisticated feeling. There’s also an offhand acceptance of mysticism – Tarot cards, psychics, Voodoo, general magic – that you wouldn’t find in the earlier, or, for that matter, the later films. I think this is sort of the fantasy Bond film but I also think that was so much a part of that decade, much more so than even the 60s. And then, of course, there’s the terribly, sadly, obvious fact that Roger Moore is, well, no Sean Connnery. He’s not terrible! He’s fine for who he is, which is Roger Moore! But he’s not the borderline psycho, extremely tightly wound yet chillingly competent Bond that Connery was. He’s more sort of, I don’t know, puppy Bond. He’s friendly and he’s trying very hard.

The movie starts off with death by earbud at the UN and then shifts promptly to death by jazz funeral in New Orleans and then, naturally, to a voodoo ceremony somewhere in the Caribbean. Voodoo. Voodoo. Voodoo. SNAAAAAAAAAKE!! The song is by Paul McCartney. I knew that. I mean, I know the damn song, it was long ago implanted into my subconscious mind forever, but I don’t think I quite realized that it was actually a James Bond movie theme song until I watched it. It kind of blew my mind. Then came the titles, which my notes say were different but not how, so I don’t remember and then there’s a note about how much I begged for a digital watch like that myself. Digital watches! We are introduced to  the new Bond in his oh so amazing bachelor apartment with to die for polka dot wallpaper in the kitchen and a sexy Italian lady spy in the bedroom. M & Moneypenny show up and Bond is dispatched after a little slapstick to the New York City of my childhood, which is to say, kinda edgy, grimy and possible even a bit scary. There’s an extended car chase in cars which I just cannot, no matter how hard I try, see as desirable fancy or even nice cars. They all look like hooptys to me, even the fantastic white pimpmobile with the side mirror armaments.

OK! Turns out the bad guy is also a UN delegate who has lots of super cool masks, a very freaky psychic girlfriend, a main minion with a hook for a hand, lots of hideouts that change into restaurants in Harlem and, dude, lesser minions galore in super high waisted bell bottoms and afros! The menu in the Harlem bar and grill is painted on the wall which is red like the whole groovy place and everything is under $1. And, at some point, Bond asks for somebody’s name and they say “Names is for tombstones, baby.” Yeah. Oh yeah. Anyway Bond gets captured and then rescued and then he’s off to the Caribbean, where he hooks up with a young CIA lady spy who seems a little easily spooked for her chosen career. Bond flames a snake with a can of aerosol aftershave – aerosol aftershave? WTF? – and wears a powder blue leisure suit, oh my god, he looks like an idiot. See? Declasse, the 70s. The CIA lady is this movie’s obligatory dead girl so Bond promptly runs off with psychic freak Solitaire and her deck of magic Tarot cards. There’s an extensive chase through what are supposed to be poppy fields (pretty sure they’re hops; poppies don’t look like that) and then a long crazy car chase sequence in a double decker bus with lots of cool island village shots and then they get captured again, told the whole evil plot – it is, briefly as follows –

  1. Give everyone free heroin.
  2. ????
  3. Profit!!!!!

and taken to New Orleans.

In Louisiana they try to kill Bond by feeding him to a bunch of alligators which of course will not work, particularly because the villains, in a foolish oversight, don’t stick around to make sure he dies. I mean, duh. He escapes via cigarette boat and then the hook hand villain, plus a bunch of other minions, chases Bond for a long time, a very long time, in another speedboat. That scene, which goes on forever – did I mention how long it was? – is the one that we adored as children. There’s a caricature redneck southern sheriff, perhaps THE caricature redneck southern sheriff, who joins the chase, out to get both of them. They career all through the bayous for hours. Days. There’s an alfresco dinner party and a wedding that both get crashed through by the speedboat chase. And then, there’s the one quite nasty and overt bit of racism in the movie, on the part of said sheriff. It’s sort of devolution into farce with a soupcon of racism and, um, well. I loved it when I was a kid and I missed the racist part, or, more likely, it was just so much part of the surroundings that it went without mention, in passing, just the way things are. Ugh. But the sheriff’s car gets blown up and hook hand gets away, then, so, serves him right.

I should mention here that pretty much the entire cast of this movie is African American except for Bond, Felix Leiter, the creepy comic relief redneck sheriff and maybe Solitaire, the weird psychic Tarot card wielding love interest (she is sort of ethnically ambiguous and possibly interplanetary.) That is quite cool and it’s awesome to see all these black actors, some of whom are seriously chewing up the scenery – I am looking at you, crazy laugh Voodoo guy – which is the right attitude to Bond. So it is very fun. Is it exploitation? I’m not enough of an expert to say. It only made me acutely uncomfortable that one time, but, I’m a white girl from the 70s: I don’t even know.

OK! Bond returns to the Caribbean to rescue Solitaire who is going to be sacrificed at a Voodoo ceremony because why the hell not (turns out she can’t be psychic after she has sex with Bond) and it gives the filmmakers a chance to really go for it with the giant snake and almost virgin tied to a stake scene.  Turns out under all the voodoo graveyard stuff there is an entire underground lair! OF course there is! Complete with uniformed minions although why you would bother with uniforms if they’re just going to be underground with nobody to see them except other minions, I don’t know. Why a giant grow op needs so many minions, I don’t know either. There is a fat bored minion who is totally great! There is Kananga gone completely over the top unhinged, also great! Kananga is a great actor. There is the shark tank from Thunderball, the monorail from You Only Live Twice AND, after Kananga is somewhat messily  disposed of and all is well, Bond and Solitaire leave on the train from With Russia With Love! All bases covered, here. Hook dude returns but to no avail and the happy couple chugs off to, um, who knows, with Baron Samedi Crazy Laugh Voodoo Guy sitting on the caboose.

This movie is now straying into the realm of movies I actually remember fairly clearly, so I was obviously growing up when I watched this on TV. It’s not terrible. It’s not the best thing ever, either. I think it’s a solid B-.

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2 Responses to Live and Let Die

  1. damon says:

    I have caught up with you intermittently over time. I fondly remember S&E, and somewhat regret that TOW is no more, though it had served its purpose. We stumble our way through life, and I hope you avoid most of the potholes. With best wishes, myrg

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