Not Just An Artistic Appendage?
If Goldfinger stands as Sean Connery’s stylistically unique entry to the Bond series, and GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan’s, Live And Let Die is most definitely Roger Moore’s. This is a film that almost stands alone, as an aesthetically exclusive admission to the Bond canon. Primarly the product of an intriguing and captivating religious practice, voodoo.
Although critics are inevitably cautious to grant Live And Let Die anywhere near the praise it deserves they are hardly proving their point to film audiences worldwide. Tom Mankiewicz’s screenplay may play on the notion of humour overtly relied on in Diamonds Are Forever, and for some critics the convoluted plot can prove tiresome. Many condemn the inclusion of Clifton James’s irritably over the top Sheriff J.W. Pepper, but the pace of the movie means you hardly notice the idiosyncrasies, unless you are a looking. If you are looking, you’re not watching the movie as intended.
It is the voodoo essence that stamps an over sized hallmark on Live And Let Die, and no one’s complaining. It seems strange that a Bond film could almost be driven by essentially religious overtones, however, with most of the western world unaccustomed to such a religion we find ourselves intrigued by its macabre connotations and cultural vivacity. From the death of MI6 agent Baines in the opening scenes it is clear there is something ‘a little different’ about this Bond movie. It is also interesting to note a feature so blatant it is amazing many find its inference subconsciously. It is the use of colour that combines the world of Bond with the world of voodoo religion, and allows the two to emphasise the ambience Broccoli, Saltzman and Hamilton are attempting to create. The colours red, black and white, so stark, yet so evocative, they are ‘the’ Bond colours, all you need do is look at the gun barrel sequence to know that if Bond was a nation, it would be signified by a black, white and red tricolour. It is possibly these quintessential Bondian colours that make the film an archetypal Bond picture.
With regards to voodoo religion and its presence in the movie I find many people residing to the fact it is simply an artistic appendage. It is in fact more than relevant to the turbulent political climate of 1970’s America. From the outset it is clear to the 21st century viewer the period in which Live And Let Die was shot, was a time of racial tension and the need for Black Americans to share pride of place with the US natives was as poignant as ever. The rise of the Black Panthers did nothing to help matters, and when actor Yaphet Kotto used the Black Power salute in a promotional photograph it was clear that the action unit were not the only department taking risks.
It seems ironic then that the voodoo religion is one practiced by those enslaved in southern America, the very place the majority of the film unwinds. Is Baines’ death in San Monique a strike for Black power? It is a moment in the movie overlooked by many as just another death. Is it the undoing of white dominance? Inevitably Bond is the victor, and any equality issues viewers might have been looking for have been dispelled in the final moments of the movie. That is until the final shot of the movie, where we see voodoo guardian Baron Samedi alive and well having been killed by Bond a short time before. You may suggest I am looking too far into this, but could this be the filmmakers suggesting, the ‘white’ man hasn’t won or simply the use of voodoo magic as a means to an end.