Saturday, October 25, 2008

Film Review--Goldfinger

directed by Guy Hamilton
written by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn
based on the novel by Ian Fleming
starring Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Martin Benson, Cec Linder, Austin Willis, Lois Maxwell

In this, the third James Bond film, a sinister gold-sniffing megalomaniac upsets the perfect sex-hungry world of Bond and puts his life in peril time and again.

James Bond (Connery) is sent on a mission to monitor the habits of one Auric Goldfinger (Frobe), a man whose gold fetish seems to know no bounds. He foils a card cheat and beds a woman named Jill Masterson (Eaton) who is helping the deceitful Goldfinger trick his foe and steal his money. The woman is later covered with gold paint and suffocates from lack of oxygen to the skin. Bond travels around Europe and discovers a plot in Switzerland but is captured before he can warn anyone back home about it. Much of the film has Bond in captivity although before he is captured he manages to bed Jill’s sister Tilly who is attempting to murder Goldfinger for the death of Jill.

Bond in bondage is a nice trick and it works quite well in this film. He can’t move about, he is incapable of any brave action, his life hangs in the balance and he is at the mercy of a super villain who seems fully lacking in social mores. Of course the new sex toy appears in the form of the aptly named Pussy Galore (Blackman) who is hard, talented, and seemingly off limits with her lesbian chic and ice cold demeanor. Of course she warms up and begins to dress appropriately for the part of Bond’s love object which changes the dynamic of the film entirely.

This Bond film features nifty gadgets and a fabulous new car, the Aston Martin DB5s. Bond is given brand new tricks to mess with the movement of his enemies and uses them ingeniously to turn the game in his favor. Naturally it doesn’t work altogether and he is brought low by Goldfinger and his primary henchman, the mute Odd Job (Sakata), a forceful man with a solid physique who proves to be a worthy foe for Bond. Odd Job has a really neat trick of his own and employs it regularly to cause significant mayhem.

As usual Bond is fully capable with women and they seem satisfied with his performance and willing to take him on for another go. The women are so easily won over to Bond’s charm and his hyper masculine mien. There is no mystery, no sense of quiet and tortured longing, and nothing approaching even a moment of genuine titillation. It is the power of charisma and few can withstand its charms for very long. Witness Pussy Galore and her strict, clearly defined barrier which surrounds her and protects her from having to deal with the forthright advances of a man like Bond. She is the leader of a group of aerial acrobats as well as a private pilot for Goldfinger. She does not need Bond for any reason but she starts to slip gradually over the course of the film which one naturally expects any woman, no matter how militant her stance against such dalliances, will eventually have no choice but to give in to the master of seduction. Bond knows a key rule in this sultry game which is to commence an argument or a disagreement of some kind and allow the woman to imagine that she has the upper hand. Most of the women Bond takes are really no challenge so it seems likely he enjoys it more when they are feisty and not forthcoming like Pussy Galore.

Goldfinger is a suave stack of meat cakes. He’s a bit pudgy but he is resourceful and his mad scheme is genius as well as diabolical. His instincts are usually quite good and he knows precisely what is happening about him at all times. He has no desires other than gold and he has dedicated his entire existence to procuring as much of it as he can get his thick little fingers on. He is a potent villain who is capable of eliminating large groups of people in order to carry out his plan. He’s willing to watch large swaths of the population die for his art and this makes him one of the more lethal cinematic arch fiends of recent memory.

Odd Job makes for a spectacular enemy as he is relentless in his devotion to Goldfinger and his master plan. He does all the dirty work for his master and doesn’t seem to be awarded particularly well for his efforts. Nevertheless he is incredibly strong (Sakata was a professional wrestler) and pretty much the most vital threat that Bond has encountered thus far. Odd Job moves about with the authority that comes when a man knows he can kill someone with his bare hands. He knows his place and where he should stand and it takes wholly unusual circumstances to divert him from his directive.

There is a tremendous amount of energy in this film as scenes are volatile and highly combustible; each character presents a formula for putting themselves in harm’s way and either extricating themselves from danger or succumbing to it. Pussy Galore is a tough broad who is fully capable of taking care of herself and maintaining her own existence against any man who might imagine he can have his way with her. With Bond bearing down on her, under the illogical assumption that he might use his famous wide smile to entice her, she holds her own and literally puts him in his place. Perhaps Pussy is a feminist but she’s not one who merely whines about inequality and being undermined by the present economical structure. Instead, she firmly establishes herself as a totemic figure fully able to fend off the enemy while managing to look quite stunning in the process.

The performances in this film are all apt and capture the essence of the Bond mystique. Sean Connery remains a marvel of cool, unregulated carnal charm. He knows he is irresistible to all women and he naturally takes advantage of any situation that brings them into his orbit. He’s capable at every turn and manages to do everything in his power to defend the reputation of the Secret Intelligence Service. Connery maintains his perfect posture and precise method of moving across the screen. Honor Blackman plays Pussy Galore with a strong physical presence that makes her one of the most dynamic and alluring Bond girls. Pussy is dangerous and fond of putting herself in harm’s way. Blackman gives a nuanced performance that reveals a character who knows what she is on about at any given moment. Gert Frobe does most of his best work in this film without speaking. He merely has to stand still and he’s forceful, intense and certainly as formidable as any screen villain of note. As Odd Job, Harold Sakata demonstrates just how an actor can play a role successfully without having to suffer the distress of speaking. He’s fluid, threatening, and leaves a definitive impression once the film has come to a close.

Overall, this film is an effective inclusion in the James Bond franchise. The characters are vivid, believable, and worth investigating. It follows a familiar format but manages to keep it intriguing straight through to the end. The performances all add to the mystique of the picture and the locales are lovely and engaging. Ultimately, the film succeeds because it puts Bond in an extended fit of peril and leaves him still, unable to mount much of an escape. This allows the rest of the film to develop so that it eventually comes into its own and evolves into something that approaches the messianic aspects of the Bond character.

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