Sunday, May 16, 2004

Retro Bond

I recently saw a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream set in "Athens High" in the Fifties; Shakespeare meets Grease. Such conceits are the stuff of theater; favorite plays are re-envisaged in all manner of periods.

I just heard a fragment of an NPR Weekend Edition Sunday story on the myth and reality of spying, in which Liane Hansen asked the expert if there would ever be a period without spying, and he replied, of course, "No". It set me wondering about the next James Bond film. The real Bond was able to work under cover since he wasn't known. Today's Bond has been in so many movies that his opponents are sure to recognize the name when someone introduces themselves as Bond, James Bond. But that wasn't the case when he started his career in the Fifties...

Let's hope Cubby Broccoli will take the leap and do a retro Bond. Star Wars has made backstory sequels mainstream. I'd love to see a Bond movie set in the Fifties; plumes of cigarette smoke, the shadow of atomic Armageddon, wholesome nuclear families with rotten cores. If it was shot in Black & White, so much the better.

It'd be a challenge, since so much of the Bond schtick revolves around the latest cool technologies, not to mention lucrative product placements. You can't do that if you roll back time -- unless, of course, you construct a parallel universe in which the Fifties weren't quite the same as ours. This is a common SF trope, as in Sterling and Gibson's The Difference Engine, and Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. Bond movies have become increasingly self-referential, and some knowing anachronism would sit well with the franchise.

But even leaving all that aside: being true to the cynical and vicious spy of Ian Fleming's novels would match the disillusionment and war weariness which may well be Americans' lot in the next couple of years.

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