Day: November 19th, 2006

Books and Bond

Sunday, November 19th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Books, Film

Is there anybody out there?

Met SYB at Bouchon Bakery for a last minute pre-date pep talk. So much nervous excitement! I was disappointed to find that quality lemonade is only offered at Bouchon during the summer; their cold weather offering is apple cider, which I suppose makes sense. Though I, for one, find lemonade agreeable any time of the year.

Changing colors of the Time Warner Center Holiday Stars:

TWC Stars

TWC Stars

Hit the inaugural New York Art Book Fair, the city’s first-ever fair devoted to contemporary art books and artists’ books, with 2 floors showcasing 70+ exhibitors from around the world: from mainstream and overseas distributors to antiquarian dealers to a section called “Friendly Fire” devoted to zines, artists and other independent publishers. The event was held at a gallery in West Chelsea, in the former Dia Art Foundation space. Judging from the very healthy turnout, independent book publishing is alive and well. The event was organized by Printed Matter, the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of publications made by artists.

NY Art Book Fair

NY Art Book Fair

NY Art Book Fair

So much to see: from free, photocopied pamphlets piled up on milk crates to precious antique tomes, housed in glass cases.

By the time I made it back to my neighborhood theater, all the afternoon showings of Casino Royale were sold out. Grrr. I generally try to avoid blockbusters on opening weekend for precisely this reason — the crowds, the inordinate amount of planning required… not to mention that AMC just raised ticket prices to $11(!) — but I was intrigued to see Daniel Craig reinvent the James Bond role. Could he really be “the best Bond since Connery?”

B was game to join me, so after loading up on reinforcements (i.e., chocolate Twizzlers and Hershey kisses), we hit the theater the recommended hour in advance to queue up outside the theater entrance. There was the usual jockeying for line position, and sneaky shenanigans, but we secured our prime seats and sat back to enjoy the show.

I’d managed until then to avoid most of the film reviews, so knew very little about the plot going in. Does it matter, really? There are international terrorists and beautiful women involved, and one squirm-inducing torture scene, that made the men in the theater very, very uncomfortable. When I first heard that Craig was selected to take up the mantle left by Pierce Brosnan, I was skeptical, but Craig admirably filled the bill. Casino Royale, being an “origins” picture like Batman Begins, introduces a young, hungry Bond, ambivalent about his chosen profession. It sets the scene for the character’s evolution from cocky thug to suave spy. In that sense Craig was perfect as Bond 1.0: he pulled off the action sequences with ease, humor, and a good deal of raw charisma, while still emoting a certain emotional vulnerability. And when he preened before the mirror for the first time in his new tuxedo, Craig looked as dashing as Connery or Brosnan ever did.

The film sets up the intriguing idea that the people most responsible for defining Bond — his steely-eyed dispassion, his ruthlessness, his misogyny, his drink, his dinner jacket — were women: M (Judi Dench) and Bond girl exemplar Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). I first saw Green in her film debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2003). Actually, far more of Green than was on display in Casino Royale; Fox Searchlight released the film in its original NC-17 form.

Casino Royale maintained a tight rein on the double entendres, super high-tech gadgets and over-the-top action sequences. Even the opening black-and-white scene, showing Bond earning his 00-agent status, was a bit of a departure from the usual: not a single fiery explosion, speeding plane, train, or automobile in sight, which made the violence, and ensuing body count, much more personal. My favorite set-piece was also remarkably-free of CGI special effects: an extended foot chase through the streets of Madagascar between Bond and Parkour promoter S├ębastien Foucan, playing an African bombmaker with super-human agility.

Craig’s 007 opened at No. 1 in 49 of the 50 countries where it’s showing; Americans gave a slight edge to the tap-dancing penguin. Still, with many major foreign territories yet to go, including Japan, Korea, Italy and Australia, the movie is on course to surpass 2002’s Die Another Day to become the top-grossing Bond installment. Bring on more Blond Bond.

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