Did James Bond Actually Die in “Skyfall”?

Did James Bond Actually Die in “Skyfall”?

JUDITH CHAMBERS

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE JAMES BOND MOVIES: SKYFALL & SPECTRE

You probably remember the notorious pre-credit sequence to “Skyfall”, the 23rd Bond movie and the most successful of the franchise to date.

 Just in case you don’t here’s a quick recap.

 Daniel Craig’s James Bond is shot by a bumbling Moneypenny; the bullet punches him off the roof of a speeding train and he plunges some fifty feet into a fast flowing river below.

 In most other films that would have been it, kaput, protagonist dead, movie over, exit cinema, but this is James Bond, and we all know that James Bond can’t be killed.

 But what if we’re wrong?

What if James Bond actually did die in that scene and everything afterwards has been nothing more than a paranoid journey through his afterlife?

 In other words, what if James Bond has been dead for two entire movies?

 

LET’S CONSIDER THE EVIDENCE.

Adele’s haunting song, “Skyfall” begins moments after James Bond hits the water, we hear the chilling opening words, “this is the end”, and suddenly a giant female hand yanks a bleeding and drowning Bond down into the underworld where he faces possibly the most chilling title sequence of any Bond movie to date.

In this sequence James Bond seems to be passing through the Tibetan chikhai bardo, a transitional journey of the soul that commences moments after death, complete with hallucinations that reflect the life of extreme violence he’s led; graveyards filled with combat knifes, and revolvers in lieu of headstones, blood-red lighting, dissolving skulls, and in one instance Bond is actually engaged in a firefight with his own shadows, a motif that is repeated later on in the sequence when he fires at his mirror reflections, suggesting that the only enemy he ever faced was himself.

 

DEAD SPY WALKING

 The movie that follows never explains how Bond survived his apparent death-plunge into the river; or the bullet wound to the chest, instead he merely appears, wraith-like, in M’s apartment, after indulging in a massive drinking binge somewhere in the Far East. Everything is unspecified. Nothing is certain. At one point he is seen standing half naked as he glares into a mirror, there are scars aplenty decorating his torso but no wound to indicate the bullet that knocked him off the train. At another indefinite point he is seated in a bar downing shots of tequila with a scorpion balanced on his hand, Scorpio being a zodiac sign often associated with death and the powers of regeneration.

 Later in the movie we are introduced to Raoul Silva, a villain who resembles a rotting corpse when he removes his false dentures, suggesting he might be a fellow wraith, a dead man who blames M for his earthly demise years earlier, although Raoul, like Bond, believes he is still alive.

 

THE DEAD ARE ALIVE

 The follow-up to Skyfall is actually called Spectre, an allusion to the villainous organization that has dogged the franchise since the days of Sean Connery, but it can also be seen as another hint that our indestructible hero is, in fact, dead. If you want further proof consider the weird epigraph: “The Dead Are Alive.” hammered onto the screen moments before the title sequence. Or Sam Smith’s song, “The Writing on the Wall;” a possible allusion to the scene in which Bond’s name has been added to a memorial stone.

 The opening scenes in “Spectre” are set in Mexico City on Dia de Muertos, “the day of the dead”, with armies of skull headed celebrants filing through the streets, James Bond is, appropriately enough, dressed as a skeleton, his mission prompted by a message from the dead mother-figure (M), the first of many “spectres” who will appear in this film.

 

Bond attends his own funeral. The dead are alive.

Bond attends his own funeral. The dead are alive.

 

 This time around time-and-space seem to function along the lines of dream logic. One moment Bond is in one location, the next he is in an entirely different place, sometimes even a different country.

 There are barely any transitional scenes in Spectre, very few shots showing us how Bond gets from one location to the next, or even one moment to the next, it’s a peculiarly disorientating omission, as though time itself is becoming less reliable, less relevant, as we proceed.

 

DEJA VU

 And yet everything has an eerie ring of familiarity about it, almost every scene in “Spectre” harkens back to earlier movies, earlier incarnations of Bond, the fight on the train (From Russia with Love), silent, physically imposing henchman (Jaws), skull-face with top hat (Live and Let Die), villain’s layer located in a crater (You Only Live Twice), the references are numerous to the point of distraction, all of which lends support to the idea that “Spectre” is simply the confused recollections of a dead man.

 How confused? Bond even re-imagines Ernst Blofeld as his stepbrother, the same way we freely re-imagine people in different roles when we’re dreaming. Blofeld is another spectre, previously thought dead, now resurrected to battle Bond over the love of the father they were forced to share. If Skyfall is about mother, then Spectre is most assuredly about father. Gone are the feminine undertones of the previous outing, this is an all-male affair, Ralph Fiennes is the new M; Christoph Waltz has replaced Javier Bardes’ effete and highly emotional portrayal of Raoul Silva, with the cerebral and calculated ruthlessness of Ernst Blofeld.

 But it all ends in destruction nonetheless, the dissolution of Bond’s past, begun with the death of mother and the firebombing of his ancestral home in “Skyfall”, continues in “Spectre” with the destruction of the only other home he’s ever known, the MI6 headquarters, an event that undoubtedly signals the end of an era.

 

R.I.P. JAMES BOND

 “Spectre” concludes not with the traditional death of the villain, but with an uncharacteristic moment of redemption, James Bond, cold, dispassionate killer of twenty-four movies, suddenly finds it in his heart to spare Blofeld’s life, the sky has fallen, his world has been obliterated, only now is he free to make different choices, and those choices include the ability to renounce his past, to walk away with a woman he’s finally able to settle down with – the kind of fairy tale ending that had eluded him whilst he was alive.

James Bond is dead, at least Daniel Craig’s incarnation is, but remember, the dead are alive, and none of this will matter when the next actor takes the helm, even if that actor is, once again, Daniel Craig.  For now let us imagine the tormented soul has found peace at last and is ready to move on.

 James Bond is dead.

Long live James Bond.

 JUDITH CHAMBERS

Confessions Of A Homewrecker

Confessions Of A Homewrecker

Infidelity, Revenge-Sex, and “The Other Woman”

JUDITH CHAMBERS

The desire to destroy marriages first manifested itself shortly after the onset of puberty, by which time I’d lost my own father – something I’ve never been able to come to terms with.

The way my mother described it you’d think dad died of an incurable disease that she called “the other woman”, a kind of social virus that took advantage of a marriage’s weakened immune system to sneak in and steal away half its genetic material.

For a long time afterwards I saw “the other woman” everywhere I looked, there she was waiting for a bus, or reading a magazine on a tube train, or manning the till at my local Waitrose, every woman was conceivably the enemy, the younger and prettier she was the more likely she was to be carrying the fatal disease that took my father from me.

 At some point I began to resent the wholesome marriages I saw all around me, I’d watched my friends picked up by their dads after school, or cheered on during sports day, or come father’s day everyone would be chatting about where their dad was taking them that evening:

 “…and where’s your dad taking you, Judy?’

 “I don’t have a dad.”

 “Whatever happened to him, Judy?’

 I’d hang my head in shame, my reply barely audible: “The other woman took him.”

 

in-the-mood-for-love

                                                       In the Mood for Love (c) 2000 Universal Pictures (US)

We don’t usually think of women as predators, in fact most of us have been preconditioned to see women almost exclusively as victims, something I don’t particularly hold to be true. William Congreve’s famous phrase: “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, has stood the test of time not because it is catchy but because it has some basis in fact.

The loss of my father turned me into “the other woman” as surely as if she’d been a vampire who had somehow infected me with her curse, I started having affairs with married men in my late teens, they were all much older than me and perhaps at that point I was merely searching for a father figure, the fact he just happened to be married was incidental.

Later on I would deliberately go out of my way to seduce married men, gathering evidence of their infidelity along the way, and when I’d had my fun I’d rat them out to their partners. I wanted to destroy their marriages, the way my parents’ marriage had been destroyed, I figured if a man was prepared to sleep with me then his vows mustn’t have meant much to him in the first place.

But in the end I was just excusing my own rage. I had become the very monster I had once fought against in my childhood fantasies, “the other woman”, a serial philanderer of such prodigious talents you may as well have called me a virus, a beautiful virus certainly, but as indiscriminate as I was merciless.

I like to think I’m a changed person now and that the books I write offer some insight into my former condition, but deep down inside I know the monster is still there, biding its time. I suspect it is inside every one of us, whispering, tempting, persuading…perhaps some of us are more easily persuaded than others.

JUDITH CHAMBERS

 

FASCISTS WEAR PRADA: THE NIGHT OF THE FASHION DEAD

FASCISTS WEAR PRADA: THE NIGHT OF THE FASHION DEAD

The other night I attended this fashion show in New York at the behest of a famous critic who assured me the show was the seminal event of the season. Now, you know me, darlings,  I just have to attend the “seminal” of everything, I’d turn up for a Chihuahua’s tea party if I thought it was in any way seminal.  I’m slightly snobbish that way.

I attended the event and was duly positioned along the catwalk, my friend, the critic, seated beside me with his notepad and pen in hand, and shortly thereafter the show began with all the pomp and pageantry you would expect from such things, the models appearing one after the other, sashaying up the walk, twirling, swirling, before sashaying back again to the sound of effete applause.

About three models in a gorgeous brunette made her appearance dressed in something pink and rather ghastly; she sashayed, twirled, swirled, and was walking back up the catwalk again when my friend leaned across to me and whispered something in my ear that put a completely different spin on the evening’s event.

‘Oh, dear,’ he snickered, ‘she’s a bit roomy in the hips.’

I frowned and stared up at the girl in question, a beautiful, willowy creature who looked a tad healthier than her colleagues to be sure, but could in no way be referred to as “roomy in the hips”, indeed the poor girl would have been considered positively malnourished in any environment but this one.

Is this fashion or a woman slowly starving to death?

Is this fashion or a woman slowly starving to death?

Now, my friend, the critic, is gay, and normally he’s a divine chap, intelligent, outspoken, with a great sense of humor, but there’s one subject that quickly turns him into something of a religious fundamentalist: women’s bodies.

Why this particular subject bothers him so much probably has more to do with his chosen profession than any particular ideology on his part, he views a woman’s body as purely functional, like a mannequin; something to hang clothes on and position in the right light to create the required effect. When he referred to the model in question as “roomy in the hips” I’ve no doubt he meant it in the same way an engineer might consider a vehicle a little heavy in the rear.

But a woman is not a vehicle, she can’t just be redesigned to suit the aesthetics of the day, there’s only a certain level of “heroin chic” the female body can endure before vital organs start shutting down. I mean that’s just a matter of biology.

Any-hoo, back to the fashion show.

Now, after my friend had made his rather cavalier remark I started studying the models more closely, and what began as an evening of light entertainment quickly dissolved into something far more sinister. The women I saw up on the catwalk were angular, and bony, with shrunken breasts, and muscles withered to the point of atrophy. I saw ribs visibly sprouting from knobbly spines like the limbs of that face-hugger creature in the Alien franchise, with shoulders consisting of nothing more than protruding bones shrink-wrapped in a tissue-thin layer of flesh.

I’d seen these people before, in images of holocaust victims staring through chain link fences, I almost expected to see a sign over the catwalk reading “Arbeit macht frei” Work makes (you) Free, the slogan suspended above the entrance to a number of concentration camps during the second world war, or perhaps the modern variation would read “Mode macht frei” Fashion makes (you) free.

The point I’m making is this. These women looked like victims, and this entire event was beginning to resemble a crime scene, and sure, in my friend’s mind some model’s imaginary hips needed trimming down, but in my mind these poor girls required immediate medical intervention, high profile arrests needed to be made, the fashion world’s equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials needed to be convened….

…But then again, I do so love my fashion which kind of makes me an accessory after the event (no pun intended), and besides, who on earth is going to stand in judgement if everyone is in on the game?

Now I’m off to buy that Christian Dior skirt I’ve been positively aching for; anyone joining me?

 

Judith Chambers

Is Cricket Really All About Sex?

Is Cricket Really All About Sex?

…Well, its about more than just wickets, stumps, balls, and the odd streaker, you know….

He rubs the shiny red ball against his inner thigh as he takes up position. The crowd is tense, the sun hot and dazzling, but nothing deters the bowler as he begins his short, brutal run up to the crease, his eyes steely with determination, his pace almost leisurely as he swings his arm, snapping his wrist taut at the last moment and sending the ball (his symbolic scrotum) hurtling towards the opposing team’s wicket (their symbolic vagina).

The defending batsman swings a phallic-shaped bat with all his considerable might, but alas, he misses by less than an inch, the ball ricochets off the ground, shoots under his defenses, penetrates the wickets, and successfully impregnates one of a pair of symbolic wombs.

And all this on live TV.

This is cricket, a game that might, at first glance, appear to have nothing at all to do with sex, but don’t be fooled, take careful note of the batsman’s posture as he prepares for the ball to be bowled, observe the way he nestles the handle of the bat into his crotch, as though grasping the base of a prodigious erection. The bat is clearly a metaphor for the penis and so, in essence, the batsman can be seen as placing his very manhood on the line in order to protect the virgin wickets behind him.

If the fielding team fails to catch the ball after it has been successfully batted then their “seed” is wasted, (tantamount to masturbation), and the batsman and his co-defender will then proceed to race between the two intact vaginas in an attempt to score the maximum number of bonus points.

If, on the other hand, a fielder, wicket keeper, or bowler, manages to catch the “scrotum” in mid-flight then the seed is still “in play”, the virgin has been ceremonially deflowered, and the failed batsman is sent off the field in disgrace.

Cricket, like soccer, basketball, golf, pool, baseball, and even hockey, is simply an ancient fertility rite dressed up in modern clothing. We are witnessing a battle royal between the male in his role as violator (the lover) and the male in his role as protector (the father or kinsman), with the penetration of the female genitalia, represented by wicket, pocket, goal, or basket,  as the ultimate prize.

Or maybe that’s just me and my deep-rooted suspicion of men who play with their balls.

JUDITH CHAMBERS

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