Friday, December 11, 2015

Bonds. Good Bonds. Bond. Bad Bond.

My brother and I were having an e-conversation the other day about High Brow Art, Outsider Art, and the role of pop culture as a substitute for mythos. (It sounds a good deal more hoity toity than it actually was - with us its more like a "Nah uh", "Yah hunh", "Fraid not", "Fraid so" kind of conversation) And he referenced James Bond as a great example (and according to him, one of the very few bona fide ones) of a pop culture icon that has transcended pop culture and ascended to the higher plane of a kind of proto-myth.  
Of course, guys like us - from a particular generation - not sayin' we're old...but we guys, us guys, when choosing their "best Bond" tend to prefer Sean Connery - this guy...
...possibly because we hungrily devoured the original source material - Ian Fleming's dark and wonderfully nihilistic cold war chronicles of the super agent On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and at the time Connery brandished the right amount of suave, sardonic and brutal. A manly-man role model apropos of the post WWII Age of seemingly imminent mutual mass nuclear annihilation and the subterranean machinations of the shadowy government groups who spied on one another.
It didn't hurt that the first cinematic incarnations of Fleming's creation- the early Bond movies - were immensely entertaining - fast-paced, far fetched and full of black humor (or humour) and a visceral, creepy violence that established a particularly sticky kind of menace - memorably indelible. 
It also introduced that widest set of villains since Batman or Dick Tracy - evil industrialists or atomic mad scientists with metal hands. Bad guys who had imposing henchmen and a nasty wit of their own.
Sean Connery made James Bond his own, and in the process made him a character with "legs" - a potent cultural presence for half a century and still going.
When the character was re-cast for the fifth time (seventh if you count Barry Nelson and David Niven, but no one really does) and the essence of Bond and his role updated for the new millennium, the choice of Daniel Craig was inspired, and has proven wildly successful.
Craig also possesses both a brooding sense of purpose and an imposing physicality. He seems perfect as the necessary "Blunt instrument"the British government wields against terrorists and shadowy criminal/terrorist organizations the equals of their Cold War counterparts. 
Even though Pierce Brosnan wasn't a bad Bond, it has taken Daniel Craig to erase the queasy memories of twelve years of the progressively depressing slapstick cartoons that were the Bond movies with Roger Moore. 
The less said about that era the better.
Oh yeah, and if you're interested in the phenomenal contribution that the music had in making Bond a cultural icon, you may want to listen to this fascinating and entertaining audio documentary on composer John Barry, the man who wrote the Bond theme, and crafted the scores for at least twelve of the Bond movies:

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