DAF does not operate like its six predecessors? It has the classic structure, the usual plot beats, employs the same narrative strategies, served and underlined by a Barry score. It only dials up the humor. But as every Bond film it reacts to the times in which it is made - and that is what makes every Bond film different, despite being essentially the same story over and over again.
I´m certain it can be. Let’s take DAF for example: In the PTS we encounter Bond chasing Blofeld, finding him and apparently killing him. The intended meaning: we are supposed to enjoy Bond eliminating his main nemesis, and this is what sets up the remainder of the movie in which Bond has to keep on trying until he succeeds.
Now, one can have a myriad of thoughts about the settings, the art direction, the nuances of the dialogue etc. And surely one can arrive at conclusions that assure every meaning one wants to read into it. But still, DAF has only one main intention: to restore Bond films to be crowd-pleasing mainstream entertainment.
And I would add that DAF definitely travels in the mainstream hatred against homosexuals, offering weird and ugly psychopaths as killers, stressing all the prejudices (the perfume, the effeminate way of speaking) and serving all of this as an invitation to chuckle at them. It even picks up this aspect in Blofeld cross-dressing.
So, reading DAF as a film that is friendly to the LGTBQ ideas, is definitely not arriving at the intended meaning.
I was referring to the perceptible reality that a film constructs. For example: Bond escapes in Vegas by flipping his car on one sides. Bond smashes the escape pod of Blofeld against the oil rig. Bond sets one killer on fire and lets the other one explode. Those are the facts. Nobody can argue that this does not happen.
Now, some directors do prefer if their films can be left to interpretation, such as Christopher Nolan, who gives that as the reason he avoided doing dvd commentaries when that was a big thing, but even he has broken from that stance when theres been a point he wanted to convey (Inception’s ending, it’s not about what the top is doing, it’s the fact Cobb doesn’t stay to look)
There also is a very funny clip with David Lynch being interviewed my Mark Kermode in which the latter asks him to confirm his interpretation of the role of electricity in Lynch´s work - and Lynch answers, after a brief pause, with a pained: “No!”
That doesn’t mean, of course, that Lynch or any director do not lie in interviews. Or that meanings that are read into a film are always wrong. Or that directors always are right in the way they convey their ideas.
But it means: the viewer can absolutely be sure to detect a meaning when that meaning just was not intended.
We do get know to know what directors understand to be their intentions, but conscious intentions do not perfectly map onto the potential meanings of a work of art (though they usually do so for a work of propaganda). If interviews and other marketing materials were exhaustive, there would be no need to make the artwork. Such things can augment, but neither supplant nor override the interaction between the viewer/reader/listener and the work of art (but people can choose to restrict their interpretations so that to be valid they must conform with stated artistic intentions, but this leads to the intentional fallacy).
[quote=“secretagentfan, post:63, topic:1154”]=Or that meanings that are read into a film are always wrong.
What is your criteria for the rightness of a meaning?
A work of art can possess meanings not intended by its maker(s) which is one of the differences between a work of art and a work of craft. I would argue that the greater the work of art, the vaster the field of potential meanings it contains. It is why there can be so many interpretations of plays by Shakespeare, Sophocles, O’Neill, etc. which follow the text, but offer different meanings.
No it is not. What I am saying is that an artist may not be aware of all of the intentions and meanings that exist in her artwork, and that to limit valid interpretations to artistic intentions is to commit the intentional fallacy.
But that view posits that all interpretations are equally valid, in particular to film assumes a personal constant and that each and every viewer is watching bringing in no bias of judgement which is patently not true. All people have a skewered view of life which will affect how they see it. Is the film maker meant to consider all of them?
No, it does not. As I posted before, any interpretation must be well-grounded in the formal elements of the artwork. On one side is the Scylla of the intentional fallacy, and on the other is the Charybdis of all interpretations being equally valid, which would mean that aesthetic distinctions cannot be made (and I believe that they can be).
Agreed, but the judgment/experience/aesthetic of the viewer engages with the formal elements, and out of this engagement arises interpretation. For me, the less engagement there is with the formal elements, then the less valid the interpretation is.
There is no act of interpretation involved if aesthetic engagement is merely a Where’s Waldo exercise to discern an artist’s intentions, or–if a viewer has read what the artist has said about the work–determining if the artist fully conveyed her intentions. Such approaches reduce the appreciation of art to a math quiz with right and wrong answers, and removes the ineffable, the ambiguous, and the capacious from the realm of aesthetics to the trash heap. A viewer cannot engage with intentions (though knowing them can be part of aesthetic engagement), but only with the finished product.
No, but for me a great artist is one who creates an artwork capacious enough to have the potential to engage viewers from many different positionalities. Not all engagements will produce valid interpretations, but the possibility is on offer.
Agreed. What I am disagreeing with is that the right/superior interpretation of a movie is the one dedicated to discerning/exalting this original intention. It seems to me like an aesthetic straightjacket.
Here is an easy/extreme example: D.W. Griffith intended THE BIRTH OF A NATION to be a film depicting the American Civil War and its aftermath. I understand his distinct intention, and it was not to produce a racist film. He spent a great deal of time and effort on historical research in order to produce an accurate portrayal of historical events.
My interpretation–based on my experience of the film’s formal elements–is that the film is a racist and anti-black depiction of the American Civil War and its aftermath.
But what difference does it make that it was not intended to be a parody if a valid reading of DAF as a parody is possible? Griffith did not mean TBOAN to be interpreted as a racist film, but I think it can be validly read that way.
I understand that you prioritize an artist’s intentions, but why do you consider this approach the best? What advantages does it possess over an approach that maintains that the entirety of an artist’s intentions cannot be known (even by the artist himself), and formal elements–knowable to and capable of experience by all viewers–should have pride of interpretative place?
With regard to Bond films, I think you are correct in the majority of cases. Most are well-made movies with often high levels of artistry, but most have no more interpretative depth than the vast majority of Hollywood movies from the time of the silents onwards. For me, there are only three films besides DAF which give a sense of a deeper poetics.
I like DAF.
It’s the first one I saw, and I wasn’t aware that it was breaking the established Bond film rules. After all, it had the elements I was told to expect, like martinis, Aston Martins and tuxedos. It had a briefing, insertion into the villains’ world, meeting sexy women, fighting a variety of thugs, getting chased and escaping by just being a better driver, and finally a blow-up in a computer-equipped installation. So using helicopters to launch an attack is wrong here, but not in OHMSS?
I like LALD too, even though it was obviously breaking the established rules (no martini, Aston Martin or tuxedo). Apart from that it seemed to follow the same formula.
To me, they and all the others are like Peking Duck and Russian Caviar. If I’m looking for art and depth of expression open to interpretation I’ll watch Ingmar Bergman or Fellini.
But is there anything wrong if “art and depth of expression” and an openness to interpretation turn up in a Bond movie? Admittedly such occurrences are rare–the system of Bond film production was/is about as likely to produce art and depth as often as the system of Classical Hollywood did, but once in a while contributors and components align. No one intended creating film noir in post-WWII Hollywood, but it happened, and some amazing films were produced (and with noir having been born, there followed films consciously designed to be in the noir idiom–often with changes and variations). Robert Siodmak and his colleagues did not intend to make a landmark film with PHANTOM LADY, but they did.
For me, the elements of most Bond movies are produced and held together by the twin necessities of formula and plot: whatever is in the movie is there to remind people that it is a Bond film and/or advance the plot. There are few, if any extraneous notes–what Truffaut called privileged moments–that exist/cohere for poetic, non-narrative reasons.
But I think these elements do occur in DAF–not in the way they occur in Fellini or Bergman–but they are there: queer moments that disrupt and link together to form a second narrative, which will not be to everyone’s taste or interest, but then narratives which are not disrupted and remain tradition-bound are not everyone’s glass of tea either.
Why do you consider that an “aesthetic straightjacket”? Nobody is excluded from forming an opinion or a distinct personal reading of any piece of art. I’m just saying that putting one’s own particular reading over that of the director´s intention would not hold water IF there is no clear evidence for that reading.
Was Griffith a racist? I don’t know. Can his film be perceived as racist? Absolutely. But that is an example for the director´s apparently non-racist intentions not being successfully transmitted via his medium. Tommy Wiseau probably intended “The Room” to be a great drama - but it turned out to be a mess evoking unintended laughter and derision.
Those examples, however, are not what I was driving at. Getting back to DAF or Bond films in general: Their intentions are laid out very clearly, I think, and from the many years of reading about the making of Bond films I am pretty sure they never tried to be anything more than entertainment.
That, of course, does not mean that the films do not expose ideas and perspectives of their makers. And those can be dissected revealing lots of intentions which may conflict with the entertainment goal.
Still, I don’t recognize any Bond film which mainly delivered hidden messages about their zeitgeist. At the same time they always, always were reflecting that zeitgeist.
But my take on all Bond films is that they have no horse in that particular race at all. They are, in that regard, highly impersonal, empty vessels to be filled with whatever is en vogue at the time of their making. That’s why “fetch my shoes” was in “Dr. No” - not because Terence Young thought the film should reflect his views on race relations, but just because that was the way race relations were at that time. Hateful? Despicable? For me, yes! But I am a product of a different socialization, reacting to the current ideals which - despite being challenged by right spectrum extremists without any shame anymore - still seem to me to be the way humanity should view life on earth. But in 1962, sadly, that was not the case.
So, of course, one can view the Bond films with all their racist and misogynistic and anti-gay moments as intentional pamphlets of white supremacist ideas. But IMO that would be wrong. The most one can accuse Bond films of would be having no firm perspective at all and even being proud of that. They are the typical “we have no opinions, we´re just reflecting those who are in power”-beasts.
Again (and I’ve gone on too long anyway), every opinion is possible. But not every opinion is valid. I think that is a real problem these days. Opinions are not facts. And if an opinion or a belief cannot be proven with examples based on what everyone can see or read, it just remains an opinion.
To the point of removing any political affiliations that Fleming had in the book, Smersh, for example are notable only by their absence.
In terms of directors having ideas of multi-layered imagery and narrative, Mendes is the only one of Bonds 11 directors that have actively sought to do that in their non Bond films, and even he dialled back the level to which he would normally would’ve indulged in imagery and sub-text.
Not so sure about that. Robin Wood was one of the few critics at the time who appreciated William Friedkin’s 1980 film Cruising, starring Al Pacino. Wood also admired Brian De Palma’s films. Seem to recall he had some kind comments about 1980s commercial Hollywood films, in particular Predator (1987).
Update: Here’s the quote I was looking for: “I’ve given up going to almost all of the contemporary action movies. I still enjoy action movies, I like exciting films, but I don’t find the contemporary ones exciting.” (2000) Oh, yes, and he hated a certain Sam Mendes film: “I dislike American Beauty quite strongly.” And Wood does not appear to have been an early admirer of Denis Villeneuve. According to Wood, Villeneuve’s second film Maelström “was facile and cheap.”
Wood also despised Kingsley’s Amis’s novels. “I might, for example, as a means of expressing my contempt for the novels and opinions of Kingsley Amis, wish to invoke positive criteria such as ‘adult’ and ‘responsible,’ but this would not, for me, automatically disqualify all works to which such epithets could not be applied. (On the other hand, I cannot imagine myself or anyone else praising a work for being infantile and irresponsible.)”
Let me finish with Wood’s take on Goldfinger:
“A light entertainment can have depth, subtlety, finesse, it can embody mature moral values; indeed, it seems to me that it must. If If I fail to be entertained by Goldfinger, it is because there is nothing there to engage or retain the attention; the result is a nonentity, consequently tedious. The essential triviality of the James Bond films, in fact, sets off perfectly, by contrast, the depth, the charm, the integrity of Hitchcock’s film. A film, wether light entertainment or not, is either a work of art or it is nothing. And the basic essential of a work of art is that it be thematically organic. Goldfinger is a collection of bits, carefully calculated with both eyes on the box office, put end to end with no deeper necessity for what happens next than mere plot; nothing except plot develops in the course of it, and, obviously, the essence of an organic construction is development. But Goldfinger, I shall be reminded, doesn’t take itself seriously: so much the worse for it. And if it doesn’t why should anyone else? - for I find it difficult to see how the adult mind can occupy itself with something that cannot, in some sense, be taken seriously. North by Northwest, on the level of plot (if one can imagine its plot divorced from its subject, which is more difficult than may at first appear), also doesn’t take itself seriously: we are not, in other words, expected to believe, literally, this could happen. But it is a very superficial glance that sees no more there than the plot. The tongue-in-cheek element on plot level has the function of directing our attention to other levels. On the other hand the self-mocking aspect of the Bond films is merely a very shrewd means of permitting the spectator to indulge any penchant for sadism and sexual ‘kicks’ he may have without any accompanying discomfort. The sociologist and the critic have territory in common, certainly; but Goldfinger and its success, the wide popular and critical success of a film that has scarcely more to offer than a boys’ comic paper, seems to me to belong strictly to the sociologist. Even to compare it with North by Northwest will seem slightly ridiculous to Hitchcock’s admirers, but a moment’s reflection will be enough to remind them that the obvious distinction between the two films has not been made everywhere. […] A cursory comparison with what Guy Hamilton makes of the Pussy Galore/James Bond relationship will reveal the extent to which a ‘light entertainment’ can have grace, sensibility, and the moral depth if it is directed by Hitchcock.”