30 June 2004

Very clever, Mr. Bond

While looking for a quote about Leni Riefenstahl, I stumbled across an article that looks closely at the incredibly weird opening title sequences in James Bond movies. The article argues that they were inspired by Riefenstahl's style.

While neither of the original title designers, Robert Brownjohn, who set the style and Maurice Binder who developed it, credit Leni Riefenstahl or her body aesthetic in the Olympia film as an influence in their Bond title sequences, the correspondences in image, symbolism, even action are intriguing and worthy of examination for their ideological meaning and filmic intertext.

It's a tempting idea. Whether or not you buy it, the article provides a suprisingly interesting history of the evolution of the titles.

Binder’s female form title credits had become Bond film ritual. Expectations followed with each successive film as to how far he might push the limits with regard to nudity, sexual content, and implication. Billy Wilder even cited Binder’s work as “superior to the films themselves.”

Particularly fun is the way it talks about the last few pictures, which have evolved into parodies of themselves. I remember that the opening titles to Goldeneye made me laugh out loud.

Women wielding sledgehammers chop away at statues of Marx and Lenin, strut their stuff on falling and breaking hammer and sickles. In a nod to Binder, there is a phallic moment when a pistol emerges from the mouth of one of the women.

And of course, eventually he cannot resist the magic word “postmodern.”

Die Another Day (2002) finally does take Bond into the postmodern world, both in the pastiche and self-aware narrative and with regard to the cinematic style. The title credits do not separate the film into a triptych structure in the classical Bond manner. There is no abrupt change, the mini-adventure does not stand alone, and the credits continue the narrative into the body of the film. .... The images fracture across the screen and re-form, foreshadowing the identity morphing in the film’s plotline.

Even James Bond has fragmented postmodern identity!

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