Jacques Stewart’s 007th Minute in: ‘From Russia With Love’
Opinion it is…
Text by Jacques Stewart
Unburdened blahdy blah the Dr No one for an explanation of what’s going on here.
0.06.00 to 0.07.00 From Russia with Love
Previously on 007. James Bond, languid Scot who does murdering for a transient political elite but doesn’t let that bother him in any way because LOOK AT THE TAILORING AND THE MUSCLES, went off to Jamaica and ate a tarantula or something and beat up a man with no hands – at the edge of cruel, that – and hung around with a Swedish Honey who was largely dubbed but it wasn’t as if he was listening to her when he stared at her, agape. Did some singing, slightly unwisely, had his shoes fetched in an act of oppression and obviously deliberately vile racism but also did a lot of murdering so that’s all OK and the one balances out the other. Was cured of radiation sickness with a nice hot shower, blew some stuff up, played carrrds, managed to park the squirty chipolata three times and was rude to his dinner host. He’s great.
The following events happen in real time. Well, within the seventh minute of From Russia with Love, anyway.
So far as this one’s gone,
Daniel CraigRobert Shaw has throttled a very red-lipped Sean Connery in the Pinewood Garden (sadly not a euphemism, and a bit of a missed opportunity, frankly). Only it wasn’t Sean Connery after all, it was Clement Attlee, so that’s cool.
We’ve had thumping bits of music including “some” James Bond theme, just in case we were slightly uncertain what it was we were witnessing, some splendid belly dancing and the rather notorious mis-spelling that reads “Martin Beswick” when of course it should read “Martin Balsam”. Oh c’mon, admit it, Martin Balsam jigglin’ away and having a ritual cat-fight whilst resplendently underdressed is the motherlode of popular entertainment and you know it. Certainly betters that other film he was in, that one with the evidently psychopathic man dressing up as a woman, committing bad deeds and also starring a piece of vacuous flyblown driftwood that later got itself cast as James Bond. Mrs Doubtfire, that’s the one.
All that has happened up to the start of the seventh minute is marvellous and lovely and the titles are great, all shouty and proud and loud and exciting and stuff. All that lot coming at you from a big wide screen – we are spoilt, y’know; that was a stunning six minutes of “encapsulation”. Grind it up, pop it in a pill and instant Bond. Fab.
And then, the 007th minute hoves into view and, as the timer ticks its way into 0.06.00…
Oh good. I was wondering when they would get to the chess. What this burgeoning film series needs, I was saying to myself whilst witnessing Swedish starlets washing themselves in waterfalls, is some frickin’ chess.
I. Did. Not. Come. Here. For. Chess. I came here for
Daniel CraigRobert Shaw and continued family-friendly titillation and killings and ladies’ bazongas and guns and that chap with the metal fists in the last one, he was good even if he ran in a manner that suggested that he would be just that moment too late for the loo, can’t we have him back? I’m not watching this crap. The last one had explosions and spiders and immensely lickable Swedish nymphettes and a dragon and a nuclear reactor and carrrds (digressing into sanity for a moment, just writing that makes one goggle at what an extraordinary film Dr No really is). At least carrrds has people speaking in French and waving a spankpaddle about and generally appearing in off-the-shoulder-nothingnesses.
I. Do. Not. Wish. To. See. Either. Of. These. Two. Men. In. An. Off-. The-. Shoulder-. Nothingness.
OK, maybe the Canadian guy, if the lighting’s right and I’ve been blinded with a rusty rake.
THEY HAVE GOT BOND SO WRONG! THEY HAVE RUINED THEIR LEGACY OF ALL OF ONE FILM! Everyone I know thinks this is rubbish. I know nine people.
Right, so as we join the “action” (Lordy, that sticks in my craw and triggers my automatic gag reflex, like that time I [deleted for a family friendly audience] with [very deleted because it’s highly defamatory] and his lurcher), right , so as we are hurtled into this autoevisceratingly exciting scene of sitting and “doing glaring”, he’s reaching over towards us and poking his cigarillo right in our faces (this might look good in 3D; anything to liven it up, frankly; one second in and I’m beginning to chew my left arm; tastes of scampi (bit of a mystery)). Right, so he’s looking to take a black knobbly bit. But, hang on a mo, he’s already got five black knobbly bits to his right. The glutton. I think he’s cheating. I don’t really know.
So, right, let’s try to follow this, he’s picked up his ivory horsey and he’s tugged at the other chap’s bishop. Look, I’m only trying to derive some entertainment from this. Who the hell watches chess? You’d be better off watching cress. There’d be more danger.
He says “Check”. But is he actually saying “Czech”? It says he’s from Czechoslovakia (Christ, I miss the Cold War) on the electronic laser display board. Is this how characters have to introduce themselves from now on, by reference to their homeland? Is that how lazy it’s all getting? Are we to expect Scaramanga’s first utterance to be “Cuba”? Blofeld’s “Probably Poland but sometimes Surrey. Or Queens. Or old Queens”. Halle Berry’s definitive reading for this generation of the complex character of Jinx to introduce herself with “Hell”? Admittedly, that would be better than what she did utter which seemed, under pain of recollection, to be “Hello. You have a big willy. me,” although I may have recalled it there as possessing more charm than it actually has. If you think I’m watching that nonsense again to check, not a chance, my lovely darling. I’d rather take up chess.
Which brings us back to this. Well, the set looks very nice but I’m not convinced that the people sitting behind this very eeevil looking man can actually see anything, despite craning forwards. Perhaps they’re nodding off; good idea.
Dear oh dear, he’s really going to burn his fingers holding his very sickly-looking cigarillo like that and if he does, he just won’t be able to do chess no more. G’an, y’bastard, burn yerself. Hm. Does one “do” chess? I suppose the correct terminology is “play”, but that tends to bestow upon it the heady whiff of being a sport. I suppose it’s a bit like darts in that respect, but at least one can “fling” darts, and one usually does at any passing funerals, especially those of scutters. Anyway, chess, that thing, well at best it’s a board game. They should be playing Pictionary; at least that’s challenging. Especially with burnt fingers.
Bloke in the background is turning to his companions, including a biddy in a dangerously low-cut purple number (Eva Green’s Casino Royale nightgown is a homage to this – science fact!) and is probably observing “We come to Venice – that’s Venice, mind, not say Mansfield or Birmingham or somewhere equally ghastly – Venice, probably the most beautiful thing ever, apart from bananas in custard obviously, and we’re sitting inside watching chess? Are you out of your bumming minds? Yes I know it’s Pinewood really, ssh, I’m doing acting”.
Erm… hang on a minute (well, not the whole minute or this would be ending, that’s how this nonsense “works”), has he just put the smoking end of the cigarettey thing into his mouth? It does rather look like it. Cockanory, chess players are hard. Or very stupid. Perhaps he feels no pain. That peculiar small Scottish Bosnian in one of those The Actor Piers Brosmam action telemovies is a homage to this (science fact!). I’ve just rewound that and either a ) he is holding the lit end in his palm, which brings me back to the fervent desire that he does himself some damage, cremates his claw and has to find an alternative and more meaningful pastime, like lying face down in a puddle or removing single gloves from railings and licking them, weeping, or b ) he is indeed sucking on fag’s red hot tip. Yes, it’s that kind of comment. Largely because it’s patently that type of film. I appreciate that chess is duller than Derby but livening it up in either of manners a ) or b ) is a bit extreme.
He does really have the sunken, haunted eyes of a practised masturbator, doesn’t he?
Anyway, here’s the opponent, a Canadian chessist. Hm. That whole phrase is an utter party, is it not?; but not one I shall be attending. I find myself that evening, oh I dunno, let’s say I’ll be deworming a child. I do like the table upon which they’re playing their little board game. Very shapely legs. Look, it’s chess and I have to get my jollies somehow.
The crowd behind one’s colonial brother appear to be sitting behind rope; what do “they” seriously think is going to happen here, some sort of wild riot, everyone goes a-lootin’ and gets trainers and a really good telly? One of the roped-off throng (four) might suddenly get overexcited and burst out and make for the (nice, shapely) table and wipe the pieces from the board in anger (which I confess to doing the only time I ever played chess), scream “Let’s ” (another confession) and then inserting a rook in a rude place (no confession, in the event I might incriminate myself) where the sun don’t shine (Swansea).
Am liking the blue and gold thing they have going on here; homaged by the relentless blue and orange motif that’s running through practically every frame of Quantum of Solace. Not “science fact!” – fact. Watch the film again (oh, do get over yourselves on the “editing”) and basically for everything that happens in “Bolivia” onwards, it’s basically blue and orange in practically every frame – be it landscapes, set decoration or Young Mr Craig’s overmade-up face contrasting with his luscious cornflower blue eyes. Seriously, it’s all there. It’s weird, and evidently deliberate.
Looks like the Canadian’s nicked Buddy Holly’s glasses from the last one. Is also wearing quite an adventurous tie. Sat there, he is, trying vainly to remember whether the big black spiky one the eeeevil man has just taken is worth ten points or twelve. Oh, how he’d have liked to go outside and kick a ball but no, his mom said he had to learn chess rather than play rough games because all the big boys would pick on him and hit him, to which he remarked that he was of above average height for his age and they might not target him had his mother not called him Jennifer. And then she’d club him around the ear with an Arthur Hailey novel and… oh , it’s my go and that clocky thing’s doing ticks, that’s not good, better do something, but I’ve gotta face it, this guy’s gonna beat me because basically he’s a ) patently well-practised in the art of eeevil chess and b ) he has just eaten a lit cigarette.
Right, so there’s a big chessboard over there and a man in a suit is whispering something saucy about bishops and a lackey is grabbing a pole and having a sudden and upsetting flashback about the years he spent in the altar-boy pit in The Vatican when it was all Bishops and poles, day in, day out, and then there was that Polish bishop who [seriously, read any further and you will burn forever].
Sitting in front of them, at another rather smashing table, there’s an old chap writing something; ostensibly keeping score, he’s actually penning lewd clerihews about Olivia DeHavilland. He is played by Simon Le Bon.
The altar-boy does his thing with his stiff pole and knight takes bishop. This is a ) how the Establishment works, it’s basically rutting, and they’re all seven-foot tall lizards anyway or b ) the original draft of the “Do you have a match / I prefer a lighter…” exchange later in the film – science fact!
Nice wide shot now and the ceiling was very cleverly matte-painted in. I’d love a ceiling like that, but Mrs Jim will insist on her mirrors. Not totally convinced by this scene that a ) chess and b ) chess taking place in Venice would draw such a crowd though. Bet they haven’t got a clue what’s going on; they all look quite old and have probably come inside for a bit of warm and a biscuit.
They’re murmuring “knowledgably”; ostensibly “knight takes bishop” must be a good thing. I thought it was an illegal thing and I’ll carry on thinking that, thank you very much.
Right, so here comes a waiter and he’s probably eeeevil too. Look, 25 seconds into the seventh minute of Dr No and we’d had Buddy Holly resurrected from the dead, large chunks of the plot explained/exposed to scrutiny and some splendid if chemically enhanced bequiffery; do excuse me if this is struggling to keep up, what with all this chessy piffle.
Exciting delivery of the glasses of water there, using up the seconds. I wanna explosion. Frankly I wouldn’t mind if they did sweep the pieces from the board and decide to as that, in my experience, is how chess ends, but perhaps with these two… no. It would be gruesome. Although it would appear that the eeevil man can put anything in his mouth without serious consequence, so one can’t rule it out entirely.
Right, so the waiter has lingered a bit too long now; one does hate it when they do that, when these below-stairs persons call attention to themselves. I do so tire of waiters wishing to be recognised as fellow humans, which is of course nonsense – they exist merely to feed me swan. Acknowledgment indulges their self-esteem. Can’t have that. OK, so eeevil chesser has noticed the waiter. This is a bad move. Next he will be forced to listen to today’s special – it’s cottage pie, everyone – and become aware of the exciting range of ice creams (banana, coffee, smear). He’d much rather sit here, smoke and then eat his cigarette and taunt Jennifer some more.
Who the frick drinks water like that? Anyway, just noticed that Jennifer doesn’t appear to have won any ivory pieces yet which tends to suggest he must be really crap. Take up Hungry Hippos instead, love – it’s significantly more entertaining and quite violent if played to win.
So, now he’s found an octopus in his drink. That’s quite impressive as it’s quite a small glass. Yes, that’s all a bit more Bondy – most people may find a fly, or a flea, or dandruff or some of the waiter’s manfat but no, this Bond film has an octopus in a glass. Cool. And it’s a really evil looking octopus, all scowly like octopi do (probably; I really don’t know and I’m confident you don’t either). This suggests that this eeevil looking man who can swallow fire is associated with an eeevil person or group of persons demanding his presence. Well, that’s a ing turn-up for the blindingly obvious.
Look at that, Jennifer just moved. It was a frown. God it’s tense.
Four seconds to go and suddenly the cigarette’s back in the eeevil lizard-face’s mouth again; very sure it wasn’t there a moment ago. Perhaps he regurgitated it; he has dark powers. And as he prepares to very, very deliberately and very, very slowly and very, very offputtingly tear up the little paper saucer thing in much the same way as that total scumbag was unwrapping individual boiled sweets in the cinema the other day which put me right off my hating of the woeful Bourne film, we come to
Conclusions: Hard to say. It’s rather beautifully staged and because, to be frank (as you might have noticed) sod all happens, there’s plenty of time to look at the scenery and consider how well presented, how well done it all is. Concentrating on just a minute of these things does make one look at the detail and the attention to it; these are premium goods, these films. It’s utterly beautiful in its design and its luxury, even if I’m well aware that the furniture is probably polystyrene, as is most of the acting.
What follows this seventh minute is, of course, sublime and it’s just dawned on me that even though the most famous bits are on the train, an awful lot of From Russia with Love happens on boats; SPECTRE’s resplendently groovy yacht, Bond punting Sylv, lots of very pretty blowage uppage towards the end and copping off with Tatters in a gondola – don’t remember many boats in the book. Odd that. So far as what we’re shown in this seventh minute goes, the beautiful design of it all being noted, the rest of the film is a testament to the fact that being a bit cool, doing killing and knobbing and wearing tremendous suits beats them what do chess any day of the week. James Bond doesn’t play chess, and that appears to be the moral of the story and an important one for one’s children to learn.
James Bond will return in the 007th minute of Goldfinger. Jacques Stewart is brought to you by some really cheap wine.
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