Saturday, 8 September 2012

My holiday reading

Escaping the wet British summer, I went to south-west France for a holiday. I didn't totally neglect James Bond, though. I kept a look-out for Bondian material, and in Bordeaux's rue Sainte-Catherine found two Bond-related books in a bookshop specialising in the cinema and, inevitably for any French bookshop, bandes dessinées.  

One was James Bond: Belmondo & Cie: Le livre du cinéma européen, by Mario Cortesi. Published in 1983, the book is a French edition of an Italian book which traces the history of European film through its movements, actors, stunts and 'magic'. As the title suggests, the James Bond series features predominantly, being deemed sufficiently significant to have its own chapter: 'James Bond – Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'.

In it, Cortesi describes the history of James Bond on the screen, from faltering starts on American television, to the global blockbusters of the Connery and Moore era (at the time of publication, Octopussy was the latest Bond film, and so dominates the selection of images from the films). The author attributes the rise of the Bond phenomenon to the efforts of producer Cubby Broccoli, strangely ignoring Harry Saltzman, who doesn't get a mention.

The author knows his Fleming, however, and makes several comparisons between the filmic and literary Bonds, naturally concluding that the then latest incarnation, Roger Moore's Bond, has little in common with the hero of Fleming's books. If there is some overlap, however, for Cortesi it is in the cold, mechanical execution of Bond's duties, which excludes emotion and the possibility of lasting relationships with women, a view that Cortesi may have revised in light of the portrayals by Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig.

The second book, published in 1988, is the first volume of the collected Daily Express comic strips, translated into French. The volume curiously begins with strips published in 1966, and so comprises Lawrence and Horak's adaptation of The Man with the Golden Gun and 'The Living Daylights'. The introduction to the volume comprises a biography of Ian Fleming.

It is worth noting here another French book, which I bought in Montpellier in 2008. Goldmaker by Guillaume Evin gives a fuller account of the rise and evolution of the James Bond film series (up to Quantum of Solace) and attempts to explain its success.

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