Spectre review: Daniel Craig’s James Bond keeps to the formula

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Film censors to Mr. Bond: No kissing please. We’re Indian.

NEW DELHI — India’s film censor authorities have ordered that kissing scenes in the latest James Bond movie, “Spectre,” be shortened before it is released in the country.

BRITISH ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing on Wednesday night said she was keen to work with directors in the fledgling local film industry and connect them to established film makers in her country. The Mumbai-based Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has reined in the fictional British spy’s famously lusty romantic life by cutting the length of two passionate embrace scenes, its chairman said. “We have reduced them,” CBFC head Pahlaj Nihalani said, referring to separate kissing scenes between Daniel Craig, who plays Bond, and his co-stars Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux. “Our work is for censoring the movie according to the rating of the film so we have done that,” Nihalani said of Spectre, which hits screens in India on Friday. “Two kissing scenes have been reduced by a few seconds”, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that two swear words had also been deleted. India’s censors have a long history of barring movies and cutting scenes, including those that are deemed too racy or may cause religious offence, with filmmakers accusing censors of intolerance. As more of an amateur in all-things Bond, I had hoped a dirty bomb would go boom or that the actress Lea Seydoux would do something unspeakable to Daniel Craig, given that the pre-credit sequence features female nudes writhing alongside an octopus with busy arms.

So I am going to be going around talking to directors, film producers and actors to see what we can do to link them up with the best expertise in Britain,” she said. Dissenting CBFC board member Ashoke Pandit earlier this year called Nihalani a “tyrant”, and on Wednesday tweeted his displeasure at the edits made to the new Bond film. “Spectre is an internationally applauded film, [but] again Pahlaj Nihalani messes it up by shading it with his own thought process James Bond,” he wrote. “Censor Board is clear.

Part of the bankable pleasure of the series, after all, is that every so often, among the usual guns and girls, the unexpected happens — a bikini stops the film, a villain revs it up, Bond surprises. The film opened with a small montage of Laing seemingly talking to Bond, whose image was emblazoned on a poster advertising the film, before she jokingly instructed him to take over and the screen came alive, as she took her seat. The film will be released in theaters on Friday. “James Bond’s women must be feeling so safe now that our Censor Board is there to protect their honor from that creep,” said Bollywood director and producer Shirish Kunder in a tweet. And so, for the fourth time, Craig has suited up to play the British spy who’s saving the world one kill at a time, with Sam Mendes occupying the director’s chair for a second turn. They’re a reasonable fit, although their joint seriousness has started to feel more reflexive than honest, especially because every Bond movie inevitably shakes off ambition to get down to the blockbuster business of hurling everything — bodies, bullets, fireballs, debris, money — at the screen.

In years past, Indian filmmakers circumvented censors by showing two flowers bending and touching when they wanted to depict a kiss between the hero and heroine. Before that happens here, there’s the usual narrative busywork that plays as if it were written by committee, which it was (John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth). The movie had fans guessing from start to finish, with high thrills, death-defying stunts (the majority performed by Hollywood actor Daniel Craig himself) and had a dramatic element to it.

An arrest warrant was briefly issued for Hollywood star Richard Gere in 2007 after he kissed the cheek of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness rally. There’s an opening lollapalooza blowout that Mendes largely delivers in one long silky take, having clearly studied trends in contemporary art cinema. Many in India’s vibrant movie industry see the censorship board as an outdated and bureaucratic irritation and regularly push for censors to allow more. “It is quite ridiculous that in this day and age the censors should be cutting out or abbreviating something like a kissing scene from a film,” The Times of India newspaper said Thursday in an editorial about the Bond film. Craig and the camera move together beautifully in this sequence, whether Bond’s sauntering across a roof (and in what has become a signature, adjusting a shirt cuff) or riding down a collapsing building as easily as you would a slide at a water park.

There’s more, of course, including car chases, nominally exotic locales and a pulpy, visceral slugfest on a passenger train with a Bluto-size hurting machine (Dave Bautista) who’s evocative of that old Bond enemy Jaws. The train, as well as the purr of an Aston Martin, suggests that the filmmakers are working the nostalgia angle, though, the series has always been driven by longing for other men and worlds, for the British Empire, for a hyper-masculine savior, for sex kittens (friends or foes) and for a reassuring vision of the world in which the greatest threat is an orderly criminal organization run by a single supervillain. The superbaddie in SPECTRE is, alas, a bore, enlivened only by our series sentimentality and Christoph Waltz working his accented villainy with a smile. Back in 2006, Craig slipped into Casino Royale and the role of James Bond like a middleweight’s fist in a boxing glove, bringing to the gig a battered beauty one punch away from ugly, a powerful chest that looks good in a tux and a visceral predatory quality that works equally well for annihilating villains and ladies. That Craig could also deliver layered emotional intensity and unexpected expressive delicacy was a nice bonus for a series that sprang back with deadly solemnity and scarcely a trace of the playfulness, much less the campy joie de vivre, that’s mostly associated with the Roger Moore era. “I miss Roger Moore,” a friend recently sighed.

I like Craig’s Bond a lot, but I am also still pining for Sean Connery, the production designer Ken Adam and women whose names (performer and character alike) you remember, like Honor Blackman and Pussy Galore. Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, once said that he wanted 007 to be, as he put it, “an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened.” (Fleming borrowed the name from an ornithologist.) He also wanted Bond to be a “blunt instrument.” The spy proved as blunt as an anvil on Wile E Coyote’s head, but the casting of Connery obliterated any notion that Bond could be wholly dull. Craig delivers the blows — the crushing uppercuts and sucker punches — more persuasively than the chaste kisses, although given the anemic seductresses Bond is often now paired with, the actor can scarcely take the blame.

The husband is a nail that leads to the shoe, the horse, the rider and finally the kingdom, little of which has anything to do with the world as it exists, with its environmental disasters and political uncertainties, religious wars and ordinary terrors. The current Bond team is trying to keep the audience entertained with new tricks and gizmos while keeping it kind of real, which perhaps explains why this Bond sweats buckets, tears up and even bares his feelings.

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