Friday, 23 October 2015

007 - Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die is a 70s remix of Dr. No, with Bond arriving in another nation shaking off the shackles of colonialism then promptly murdering his way to the top. In Roger Moore's debut Bond finds himself staring down Yaphet Kotto's softly-spoken Dr Kananga, a Caribbean super-criminal so successful that he can eat a billion dollar heroin loss and still have every black male in the Western Hemisphere on his books.

On the surface it appears that Live and Let Die is an overlong action film that trades on an alarmist racial paranoia, but it is more of an apocalyptic death match between two distinctly defined consumption Gods. Most obviously, Baron Samedi is a Voodoo loa synonymous with cigars, obscenity and rum. He's a bony figure that hovers between the realms of the living and dead, greeting the recently deceased and chasing after mortal women.  

James Bond exists because of a kind of conceptual animism, he was willed into being by an ailing Empire desperate to remain vital after a financially crippling world war. 007 embodies everything Britain purports to love - ingenuity and clear-headedness - as well as everything we actually do love - violence and incessant crudity. Moore's new Bond is resurrection incarnate, an invincible sexual magnet blessed with a selection of obnoxious technological gadgets concealed in his shaving kit. He's empty, abdicating his most basic gifts to electronics. Bond as overwhelming, arrogant machinery cursed to have a dick between its legs.

Bond clashes with Samedi during a choreographed ritual sacrifice. The ceremony is positioned in the film as a spot of casual brutality used by Kananga to conceal his headquarters and provide his subjects with a distraction. Jane Seymour's virginal Solitaire is the prize, the locals want her bitten and devoured by snakes while Bond wants to do much the same to her himself. Samedi rises from the grave to oppose 007 and is swiftly dispatched, thrown into a coffin filled with pythons. Samedi's mistake was to try and confront Bond on the secret agent's turf. Samedi's impromptu gathering is nothing compared to James Bond's million dollar annual rite.

It's interesting that the two most significant Bond actors share such a similar first adventure. Given the horridness going on in Britain in the latter decades of the 20th century it's tempting to imagine the whole process as some kind of Masonic power ritual: 007 is a spell cast by the rich and deranged to ensure Britain's economic prospects limp on a little further. George Lazenby strayed into the Bond role flanked by an army of filmmakers prepped to deliver their career-best. Turns out all he really needed was a blockbuster story about a rugged white man travelling abroad to kill lots of poor black people.

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