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Entries in Sean Connery (5)

Tuesday
Apr082014

From Russia With Love's Visual Style

On the 50th anniversary of "From Russia With Love"'s US release our friend and James Bond expert Deborah Lipp (she even wrote a book about him!) is here to talk 007...

Sean Connery in "From Russia With Love" released 50 years ago today in the States

After 23 official films and 2 unofficial ones, From Russia With Love, the second James Bond adventure, remains the greatest of them all. Considered an iconic film in many ways, it may surprise the casual Bond viewer to note that certain "iconic" aspects of the Bond franchise were missing from or created in this film.

Let's focus on From Russia With Love's extraordinary visual signature on this anniversary

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, featured the production design of Ken Adam. Adam is justifiably famous. In Dr. No, he designed such sets as the nuclear launch room, and, needing one last set when the budget ran out, came up with an exquisitely simple interrogation room, as perfect as any of his more elaborate work. Adam worked on a total of seven Bond films, creating such sets as Goldfinger's Fort Knox and the hollowed-out volcano lair in You Only Live Twice. He is considered synonymous with the look of James Bond movies, but he didn't do From Russia With Love. He was busy working on Dr. Strangelove—go ahead and revisit the war room scene in Kubrick's film and ask yourself if it doesn't look an awful lot like a James Bond movie.

No, art direction for From Russia with Love was done by Syd Cain. Cain is kind of impressive. Like Ken Adam, he did multiple Bond films and worked with Stanley Kubrick (in Cain's case, on Lolita). 

The eye-popping chess tournament scene in From Russia with Love, in which the chess game takes place on a raised dais above a checkerboard floor mimicking the chessboard itself, is Cain's work. The movie also featured Blofeld's yacht-based lair, extensive scenes on the Orient Express, and location footage in Istanbul augmented by opulent set design. In fact, opulence is a good word to hang on Cain's work, and FRWL is an opulent movie.

Another iconic visual element in Bond films is the title sequence. Title design by Maurice Binder is considered part of the Bond signature, and Binder was there from the beginning. Dancing girls, silhouettes, sinuous animated movement, and the famed gunbarrel sequence were all Binder's designs. He did the title sequences for every Bond film from the first one in 1962 through License to Kill in 1989. Except two: From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. Robert Brownjohn did those. 

FRWL's title sequence features the credits projected on the mostly-nude body of a bellydancer. It's beautiful and so very Bond, so typical of Binder's signature work that you may wonder if Brownjohn wasn't influenced by the first Bond title sequence. He wasn't: Dr. No's titles are a psychedelic explosion of colored dots. Male and female dancing silhouettes come in around the 1.40 mark, and by 2.15 we're into the "Three Blind Mice" sequence—three blind beggars who turn out, as the movie begins, to be assassins. Nope, the sensual body of a woman in Bond titles wasn't made iconic by the iconic Bond title designer. 

From Russia With Love is great for many reasons: Plot, dialog, cast, and locations all play important roles. But the visual style is a key component. How interesting, then, that it stands separate from what we think of as "the" Bond style.

 

Saturday
Mar162013

Can Oscar Sustain His Unlikeliest New Love Affair?

*Not all films discussed here exist outside my head.

Amir here, to obsess about the Oscars because, you know, March is never too early to start doing that around these parts.  Recently, I’ve started to wonder whether Oscar might have started an unlikely love affair with Iran.

Stop laughing and allow me to explain. Oscar took a long while to take notice of Iranian cinema or any of the Iranians who were working in Hollywood. To be fair to the shiny gold man, he wasn’t really spoiled with choices, but still took his time before deciding that Darius Khondji was a worthy cinematographer (Evita, 1996) and Habib Zargarpour’s did fine fx work (Twister, also 1996). Oscar has taken short trips to Iran a few times since then and last year, after watching A Separation, finally decided to stay awhile... in Asghar Farhadi’s house.

No one expected Oscar to go back so soon, especially with no major Iranian films present on the festival circuit, but AMPAS had other ideas. Oscar went back and took one of Hollywood’s golden boys along with him. Famously, they had such a hard time getting out of Iran they had to fake Canadian passports. Britain aside, Oscar doesn’t really embrace any foreign countries two years back to back, let alone a Middle Eastern one. What is happening?

Could this once politically forbidden passion turn into a stable relationship? I turned to the festival circuit, but to no avail. So I've decided to take the intiative and suggest a few projects that might turn the trick again with Oscar. more...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct202012

Reader Ranking Announcement: James Bond!

I meant to follow up February's very popular Meryl Streep Reader Ranking with another participatory countdown that's turned over to you! But I've been slow about it. Here's a perfect opportunity. Let's do everyone's favorite spy, James Bond. Deborah has been listing her favorites as we count down to Daniel Craig's third outing as 007, Skyfall on November 9th. 

The official James Bond films as a reminder... 

  1. Dr. No (1962) Connery 
  2. From Russia With Love (1963) Connery 
  3. Goldfinger (1964) Connery 
  4. Thunderball (1965) Connery 
  5. You Only Live Twice (1967) Connery 
  6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) Lazenby
  7. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Connery 
  8. Live and Let Die (1973) Moore 
  9. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) Moore
  10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Moore 
  11. Moonraker (1979) Moore 
  12. For Your Eyes Only (1981) Moore 
  13. Octopussy (1983) Moore 
  14. A View To a Kill (1985) Moore 
  15. The Living Daylights (1987) Dalton 
  16. License to Kill (1989) Dalton
  17. Goldeneye (1995) Brosnan 
  18. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Brosnan 
  19. The World is Not Enough (1999) Brosnan 
  20. Die Another Day (2002) Brosnan 
  21. Casino Royale (2006) Craig 
  22. Quantum of Solace (2008) Craig 

Confession: I have a soft spot for Octopussy (1983) which most people think is terrible, because it's the first Bond I ever saw.How to play along: 

  • Send me a ranked list of every James Bond film you've seen by November 1st with "BOND RANK" in the subject line. Your list could be as short as 3 films or as long as 22 -- I'll take any size list but the lists are weighted to prioritize the readers who've seen the most (just like we did with Streep). If you need help remembering which film is which here's a handy compendium.
  • Bonus Points: If you include a list of your 7 favorite Bond Girls in the e-mail, I'll add more weight to your film rankings if you do.
  • Feel free to include soundbytes. I might publish them if they're relevant to the final rank.
  • Feel free to include links to something you've written about the franchise if you have a blog. I might link them if it's relevant to the final writeup.
  • Depending on your enthusiasm we'll know how Bond crazy we should get in early November when Skyfall premieres.

 

Thursday
Oct112012

007 Favorite 007 Films

Deborah Lipp, the Ultimate James Bond Fan, is listing 007 of her favorite things as we count down to Skyfall

I spent a couple of years compiling lists made by James Bond fans; primarily favorite movies, least-favorites, and  ranked lists of the whole series. The fun thing to discover is, when it comes to James Bond, everyone's an outlier. Every single movie appeared on someone's favorites and someone's least-favorites. Plus, everyone's list had a unique feature, an eyebrow-raiser. I bet if we did a poll here -- should we do a poll here? -- the same thing would happen.

So, eyebrow-raiser and all, here's my top 007 Bond films...

001 From Russia With Love (1963)
To me, the second Bond movie is the greatest of them all. It's the perfect blend of Bond ingredients: Action, adventure, exotic locations, sex, mystery, espionage, music, humor, visual impact, and an outstanding cast. Beyond Sean Connery and the other regulars (including the introduction of Desmond Llewellyn into the series), there's Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya, and Pedro  Armendáriz in his final role.  Eunice Gayson returns from Dr. No: a rare recurring character role. Plus, this is the movie that introduces Blofeld as a hand petting a white cat. Underground catacombs in Istanbul! Gypsy mud wrestling! Daniela Bianchi wearing nothing but a ribbon around her neck! All that and a North by Northwest homage too. It's perfect.

002 Goldeneye (1995)
Restart the series after a six year hiatus, during which the audience went from anticipatory to disinterested. Introduce a new Bond to a new generation. Make Bond modern in a post-Cold War era without throwing away tradition: Goldeneye succeeds on every level. Hey, this is the movie that introduced Judi Dench as M, and wasn't *that* a great idea? The cast is incredible—in addition to being Pierce Brosnan's first outing, we have Sean Bean, Samantha Bond, Famke Janssen, Izabella Scorupco, Robbie Coltraine, and Joe Don Baker. The stunts are mind-blowing (the dam jump? Holy wow!), and the deft mixture of action, drama, humor, and globetrotting is out of this world. I'm happy every time I pop this one into the DVD player.

Daniel Craig, Roger Moore, and... Timothy Dalton (?!?) after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov032011

Live-Blogging the Bond 23 "Skyfall" Press Conference

I couldn't begin to tell you why I do the things I do but rather than make you watch all 28 minutes of the Bond 23 conference, I'm watching it for you; I'm a giver.

007 by way of 11/03

50th Anniversaries on their way!

0:01 As the press conference begins we're reminded that it's exactly 50 years ago today Sean Connery was officially announced to play James Bond in Dr. No (1962). Fun, trivia right?

1:15 The confirmation of the worst kept secret in London: the title is "Skyfall"... They don't mention this but that make Skyfall the second shortest Bond title ever (after Dr. No). The longest title is On Her Majesty's Secret Service. #uselesstrivia

2:02 EDITED TO REMOVE COMPLETELY GARBLED NONSENSICAL SENTENCE WHICH IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU LIVE BLOG. The film will take place in London, Shanghai, Istanbul, and has a heavy Scottish component. 

3:21 Not present at the conference but in the film Sam Mendes tells us are wispy wonderful Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes who are described in virtually the same way as playing...

a part I can't tell you about in scenes I can tell you nothing about"

4:25 The stars come out Berenice Marlowe, Naomie Harris, Dame Judi Dench (Mendes makes a funny "you won't have heard of her but i think she has a very promising career ahead of her"), Javier Bardem will play the villain and of course Daniel Craig as Bond, James Bond 007.

5:53 Sam Mendes says he was a huge fan of Bond films (English schoolboys grow up with him) and he says the first one he saw was Live and Let Die (1973) which is, incidentally, one of the Roger Moore titles.

press conference attendees: Bardem, Marlowe, Mendes, Dench, Craig, Harris, Broccoli and Wilson

6:30 Lots of mutual back patting. Mendes loves Craig (he doesn't mention it but he gave Craig one of his first big American movie roles in Road to Perdition), the Broccoli estate loves Mendes, etcetera. Everyone loves everyone. 

7:35 Producer Michael G Wilson "No one really thought we'd get 50 years of Bond, let alone 23 pictures." They mention 23 a lot but it depends on how you count the films.

8:30 They will start shooting today... BOND GIRLS & SHIRTLESS BOND AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...