Shaken Not Stirred

Whishaw and Craig as Q and 007

Skyfall

If there’s one brand, one film franchise, one name even, that sums up the very best of British creativity and industry (and which holds no relation to anyone of a royal title or an olympian) it is Bond. James Bond. Oh the images are filling my mind and I’m making no attempt to close the flood gates; martinis, Aston Martins, sophisticated black suits. Femme fatales, incredible dresses, guns, blood, Judi Dench, gadgets, the unmistakable theme tune. Fast cars, crazy billionaires, sharks and the hairiest escapes known to man.

It is perhaps serendipitous that I first began writing this post weeks (alright, two and a bit weeks) before the amusement of the Queen’s film cameo at the opening ceremony, where Bond deservedly made the entrance of the century to the roars of 80,000 people. Serendipitous as I had the unplanned pleasure of attending The Barbican’s current exhibition “Designing 007: 50 Years Of Bond Style”. It was, quite easily, the very best I have ever attended.

It was one of those afternoons that wasn’t mapped out and jam-packed with events; my family and I were to see the double bill of the plays “South Downs” and “The Browning Version” at the Harold Pinter Theatre and then take it from there. On exiting someone suggested a leisurely stroll from the West End, down Fleet Street and up to EC2 would offer the perfect opportunity to walk off the false sense of tiredness that descends in the heat of the theatre. It was clearly meant to be as my brother, utilising the wonderful invention that is the mobile phone, booked tickets enough for the four of us as we stood outside the stage door and no sooner had the crowds descended to queue for cabs than we were marching off into the distance.

Now, I am a Bond fan in the way that one whiff of a royal engagement gives way to a nation of crown lovers. I’m not a hardcore Bond brainbox but I’ve always enjoyed the slick Britishness (now I’m really not making sense) of the films and delight in the intricacies of the costume design in particular. Having not watched anything Bond related for a considerable amount of time therefore, the section of my brain reserved for the very best things in life was immediately saturated with the world of espionage the moment I stepped through the double doors into the first stage of the exhibition.

The Barbican had clearly made use of someone trained in the art of creating a practical, memorable and ultimately enjoyable memorabilia exhibit fit for public consumption. The level of detail exercised across the entire display was so scrupulous that upon exiting the final of the three stages of the spectacle (which was held across three floors of The Barbican requiring tickets to be retained and stamped on entry into each new level) I glanced down at my ticket only to smile at the numbers “007”; made up of the three consecutive stamps I had received.

My personal favourite of the outfits on show was Eva Green’s glorious evening dress, worn for her role as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. In contrast, I was appalled to discover that the ragged black dress donned by Olga Kurylenko as Bond’s accomplice Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace was in fact couture Prada and worth several thousands of pounds! On that note, was I the only one underwhelmed by Sévérine, Skyfall’s obligatory Bond girl? Without giving too much away, I like to think that her character was written without any real solidity to enforce the strong theme of the character relationship between Bond and M. Judi Dench triumphed, as did Ben Whishaw as Q who shall be returning to grace our screens in series 2 of The Hour TONIGHT on BBC2 at 9pm. I thoroughly recommend both The Hour (series 1 of which I wrote about here) and Skyfall – both are rich in glamour, espionage and good old-fashioned wit.

Ben Whishaw as Q

Q

The Diary of a Film-goer

I knew this would happen. I knew that once I was back in a daily 9-5 routine my blogging schedule would be scrapped in favour of meeting work deadlines and all of the other commitments that September never fails to bring. September has flashed by startlingly quickly and I can’t believe I haven’t posted since the fourteenth. I love writing (not that I’ve ever mentioned that before) and I am determined to make a special effort to keep posting regularly, so here we begin…

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

There aren’t many people who would be willing to go to an early morning showing at the cinema, especially not on a Saturday, a fact which a good friend and I discovered this past weekend on an excursion to see the new film adaptation of Jane Eyre. I can tell you from experience that if you are willing, early mornings are by far the best times to visit the cinema, and here’s why:

  • You can usually obtain some variation of an ‘early bird’ ticket which is cheaper than your standard ‘peak’ time one.
  • Rarely will there be more than ten people watching the same film as you are at that time of day – we were the first people in and so had the pick of the seats – which should equate to their being less chance of being disturbed whilst enjoying the film.
  • Due to the earliness of you showing the only people who will be willing to drag themselves from their beds to the cinema on a Saturday morning will be the hardcore film-goers, the type of people who abhor others who munch popcorn all the way through the film because they are their to enjoy the showing and not listen to somebody else’s munching during the climactic scene of the film.
  • You leave with the knowledge that you have already had your fill of ‘culture’ for the day and it isn’t yet lunchtime.
Judi Dench and Mia Wasikowska

Judi Dench and Mia Wasikowska

The film itself was excellent – really enjoyable despite many ups and downs and circumstances that seemed to change within seconds! Directed by Cary Fukunaga and adapted as a screenplay by Moira Buffini from the Charlotte Brontë novel the running time of 120 minutes was a feast for the eyes, the ears and the heart. Mia Wasikowska – known predominantly for her starring role of Alice in Tim Burton’s animated version of the classic Lewis Carrol novel in 2010 – plays Jane to Michael Fassbender’s Rochester, and both are supported plot-wise by Judi Dench’s Mrs Fairfax – a kindly, ageing housekeeper who gives companionship to the lonely Jane.

When Bertha – the mad, confined-to-the-attic wife of Rochester – first appeared, my instant reaction was that she was being played by Helene Bonham-Carter, in possibly her most wild role yet, and this is the woman who has played the Queen of Hearts (as in “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”) and a Death Eater. Indeed. Alas, it was not to be as the casting director had evidently been searching for a HBC lookalike and found her in the form of Italian actress Valentina Cervi. The costumes were superb and the attention to detail of lace-collars which appeared to have been painstakingly constructed was  so very creditable.

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender

If you get a chance, go and see it. It’s quite long (though in a good way) and there comes a point when you think they’re going to wrap it all up but in reality there’s still twenty minutes to go(!) but the landscapes, the costumes, the cast and the incredible script really are something to sit back, relax and enjoy. For another blogger’s perspective do have a read of Kate’s post about her perception of the film. On a tedious link (that being period drama!) has anybody been watching Downton Abbey? The new series is as lavish as I hoped it would be, despite WW1 being in full swing, and the only downside is the ridiculous amount of advertising breaks and their length which is what can be expected of channels such as ITV. Downton is one of the few non-BBC programmes I watch and I yearn for the show to be a BBC-made programme so as to allow me uninterrupted viewing of what is arguably one of the best programmes of our time!

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska

Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska