Monday, September 28, 2015

SPECTRE: Newest James Bond "Day Of the Dead" Poster

If you need a refresher on the trailer, you may find it at the end of this post. The skeleton figure behind the dinner jacket is Bond, dressed for the Day Of the Dead celebration in Mexico City, so it's a very specific moment in the calendar year within the film. From the trailer, we know Bond wears that white dinner jacket when he is on the train with Madeleine Swann, so the poster is juxtaposing two different but absolute points in Bond's narrative that, otherwise, we might not connect together, so this is, in effect, a poster that is designed as a kind of "love note" to the audience: if we have cared enough about the film to keep tabs on posters like these being released, we are going to be rewarded when the film comes out because, like Bond in the film, we will be looking for what connects all of them (the scenes) together. So, what is it? First of all, we don't know if Bond, dressed in "dead" costume is on his way to assassinate someone, or is escaping from it; what we can say is that Bond has, literally, been stripped of his total being: he is a walking skeleton. This might have something to do with the conversation Bond and Q had in the British Museum in Skyfall: "Once in awhile, a trigger has to be pulled," Q condescendingly says, and Bond retorts, "Or not pulled. It's difficult to know in your pajamas." In this sequence, however, we know Bond has taken it upon himself to pull a trigger and there are definite consequences to it. Now, back to the skeleton suit and being a "walking skeleton." This possibly means three things: either Bond is the "face of death" in the film (as Mr. White points out, "I always knew death would wear a familiar face, but it's not yours,"), Bond himself has experienced the face of death (like when he's looking through his personal effects from Skyfall brought by Moneypenny) or both, and I rather think it's this last option, because that's beautifully more complicated and why on earth would Sam Mendes NOT want to do that? So, what this poster presents are the two personas Bond will be wearing throughout the film; why? Spectre itself is a persona for Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and Oberhauser has spent years creating layers of deceit to protect Spectre and himself; the skeleton suit Bond wears reveals how Bond is ripping away his own layers of deceit and identity because, if he doesn't, he won't survive. There is another important facet to the skeleton suit: when we see Bond walking down the road, he glances backwards (0:06 in the trailer below), as he is doing in the poster; why? We saw Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) do the same gesture in The Man From UNCLE as he approaches the Berlin Wall. In both instances, there is the feeling of being watched by Big Brother, and given that both films center upon an international organization trying to take over the world, we shouldn't be surprised that such a casual gesture can hold such grand significance. 
Some new stills of Spectre have been released, along with this tantalizing new poster for the film and they deserve some attention. To begin with, there is a report of an interview with Daniel Craig suggesting that he might not be back for the next Bond film; I think this is publicity, because Mr. Craig is contractually obligated to do five films: Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre leave Craig one film short of his sign-on agreement. Why would he say this? Well, Spectre is getting free publicity with all the talk of "Who will be the next James Bond?" without specifically over-selling the film, or spilling any of its plot secrets. One might think it would undermine Craig's performance, and make people wish there were all ready a new Bond, however, Craig has been so successful (with the help of incredible screen writers and directors) as Bond that instead, it's making me dread the day there is another Bond; in other words, it's solidifying Craig as Bond even more. I don't know about you, however, but I actually think this might be a Oscar ploy to instill in the industry's mind just how amazing Craig has been as Bond and that he is, indeed, Oscar worthy. I certainly think so, and wouldn't have hesitated to give him the gold statue upon leaving the theater in November a few years ago, having watched Skyfall.
"Magnificent, isn't she? A few little tricks up her sleeve," Q says,... of the car, not Madeleine Swann (Lew Seydoux), however, this stunning evening gown begs comparison with the bespoke Aston Martin Bond drives in the film. How? To begin with, one of the meanings of the name "Madeline" is "magnificent"; both are/wear silver, and secondly, both are the "vehicles" of the narrative: the Aston Martin because Bond will be driving it and it symbolizes his own abilities in the film, but also Swann because, without her, Bond won't be able to access Spectre.  The gown she wears is at least a little bit computer generated: note how the fabric hugs her right hip and her inner thighs, especially around the knees; fabric doesn't do that, but that's okay, because the gown makes an important statement: Madeline has the curves that Bond will have to handle as if he were driving the Aston Martin, and that relates a bit of danger that we might not expect coming from her since her dialogue with Bond (what has been released) echoes that he must be tired of hunting and being hunted. Is it true that Bond "doesn't stop to think about it, really,"? Yes and no. Bond couldn't be a hero if he didn't meditate on his own self, because it's only through his self-awareness that Bond remains a "good guy" and is able to understand who the villains are and why they are the villains. What Bond doesn't stop to think about are the possible consequences of such a high-stakes game because the stakes are too high if he doesn't hunt and be hunted: he will lose his soul, and a reference to, "It was this or become a priest," enforces this concept: he has become a spy and a priest, because without his soul to guide him in the direction he needs to take, he would end up being just another Silva (Javier Bardem, Skyfall). 
This brings us to director Sam Mendes who did Skyfall and also Spectre, stating that he's pretty confident he's done with the Bond franchise. This is actually possible. Sadly, Mr. Mendes might be out but I certainly hope that isn't the case. Like Joss Whedon under the stress of making The Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron, and pressure to deliver the highest-grossing film of all time, Mendes is under financial and artistic pressure to elevate the Bond franchise even more than did with Skyfall, and after all, he is only human,... from what I've heard.
We've all ready discussed the importance of how water (snow, fog, rivers) will be symbolic in the film (please see Bond's Secret: Spectre Trailer for more); glass will most likely be utilized in the same manner. The building at the top is the clinic where Madeline is a doctor (some kind of mental health institute) and then we see Bond, in the pilot's chair of a helicopter with the windshield smashed out, and the logo of the film, the bullet hole in glass, crackling to form the SPECTRE logo of the octopus.  Glass and mirrors symbolize reflection, the deep, meditative type that we do in order to mentally, psychologically and spiritually advance in life and get through our obstacles. As noted in the earlier post linked above, water in all three forms--liquid water, fog/clouds and snow--symbolize three stages of the meditative process: water is reflective, so we first see the problem or issue that arises when a character is in/around water, but it's only a surface understanding of what is happening to them. The second phase, fog, signifies a deeper approach to the problem, but there are blurs and ghosts, difficulties arise as the character tries to delve deeper into the murkiness and discover what is really there. Finally, snow symbolizes that the problem has materialized and is solved, but healing has still to take place--just like the earth in winter under snow, when it rests from the summer crops it produced. The character isn't well at this point, but the wound and trauma is ready to be healed so the character can move on. At Madeline's clinic in the top image, it's not only a completely glass hospital, but it's surrounded by snow: either this means Madeline herself has experienced the cleansing of her troubles, or, at this point in the film, Bond has a part of his troubles figured out, with more still to come. Likewise, with the second image, Bond's shattered windshield suggests that his own understanding of what was happening or would happen has been interiorly undermined--perhaps he thought he was more capable than what he proves to be, or his enemy is stronger than he thought--but this will be one of many trying moments for Bond since the whole film will be pointed towards the interior life (the glass the logo consists of) and the death that will be introduced to it (the bullet).
A bit more of the plot synopsis has been released and it puts the film in a bit more of a timeline, although that is still sufficiently confusing (but in a good way):

A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond (Daniel Craig) on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organization known as SPECTRE.
The exquisite monochromatic elegance of this scene has mesmerized me: I don't know what it is, but the limestone and total black of the funeral mourners, the cold air (Bond wears a coat) contrasted against the sunlight and the casting of shadows, entrances me with this scene. I am going to suggest, because I can't possibly have a real clue about what is going on, that the stone facades we see are meant to be for the viewer a kind of artistic interpretation of Lucia herself (remember, "Lucia" means "graceful light" but what we appear to see more of in this meting is her "graceful darkness exhibited by her dress of grieving: she will probably appear monochromatic herself, not giving much away (if, indeed, anything at all) but within her and her dialogue, there will be a play of the darkness of the shadows and the light of illumination Bond seeks in going to her for help. Lucia wears a dark hat covering most of her head, but not all of it, suggesting that she is keeping most of her thoughts, fears, suspicions and what she knows to herself. The netting over her face acts as a form of erasure for her identity because it obscures her features: there is far more to who she is than Bond will be able to first discern, which is why she's not only a "forbidden" widow, but her last name is "Sciarra" which means "argument" or "quarrel"; the stylized aesthetic of this scene is surely a set-up to what we will be seeing as the "rest" of her story. 
Madeline's character is not mentioned in the synopsis, causing part of the confusion, but another part will revolve around what is happening to M (Ralph Fiennes) as he works to restructure MI6 after M's death (Judi Dench) in Skyfall. It's a new beginning, in a sense, but not for Bond: whereas he dealt with M's ghost in Silva (Javier Bardem) in Skyfall, now he deals with his own ghosts, but it appears he has decided to become a ghost in order to chase them. "Do one other thing for me," he asks of Q; "What did you have in mind?" and he replies quietly, "Make me disappear." I will be perfectly honest with you: between Spectre, The Avengers Age of Ultron and Star Wars VII, 2015 may go down in history as one of cinema's best years in film ever.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner