Designing 007: field report from Madrid

Designing 007

TEFL teaching is a nice way of life. You zoom from student to student helping with their passives and conditionals, allowing you the freedom to sit and speak. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teaching in Spain is even nicer. You find yourself drinking Sangria and talking to black haired beauties as you practice the ‘subjonctif présent’. And when a telegram from The James Bond Dossier heads your way, detailing an exhibition in Madrid, one feels duty bound to report on it.

“THIS IS THE BIG ONE STOP AN EXHIBITION DETAILING FIFTY YEARS OF JAMES BOND STOP HEAD OVER TO PLAZA DE COLON STOP M STOP”.  With such tenacious writing, one could hardly refuse.

Having left my Brioni in my native Ireland, I felt sufficiently underdressed to report. Unlike Pierce Brosnan in The World Is Not Enough, swimming underwater is difficult for me and not having a driver’s licence, arriving in an Aston Martin also proved difficult (but someday!). A Metro stop proved the best option and as I arrived to the security desk, I figured any Mooreisms would be somewhat inappropriate if I wanted to go in  (I chose to reply negative when asked if there was anything sharp in my bag, rather than the preferred “nothing but my wit”).

And boy, was holding my pride worth it upon entering. Entering into the first room, a Bond afficianado would find themselves omitting certain bodily fluids at the sight of Oddjob’s hat and the only surviving copy of Scaramanga’s gun on display. Better still, the room presented itself similarly to Ken Adam’s design of Fort Knox in Goldfinger, a golden Shirley Eaton centring the room a nice touch to the fortress.

Other parts of the museum displayed replicas of Walther PPK’s, Bond’s Obituary from Skyfall and passportation used by Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig (interestingly, the dates of birth on both were 1948 and 1968 respectively, near enough the birth date of both actors). Another room displayed modelled versions of Sean Connery playing baccarat on poker tables both luxurious and accessible, the grip of the sixties still as strong as it had ever been. Q’s infinite supply of gadgets found themselves in the fourth room, as indelible a part of Bond as the Walther PPK’s have been. With designs for ‘Lotus Esprit’ and ‘Little Nellie’ encased behind glass display, viewers are reminded the importance Q’s gadgets had on the series- regardless that the recent Bond films have deemed such items obsolete.

If the exhibition suffered from one aspect, it was the unexpected lack of George Lazenby memoriabilia. True, Lazenby only starred in one film- but it proved to be the film that rivalled From Russia With Love’ as the artistic high point of the series. Don’t believe me? Then believe Bond critics Charles Helfenstein, Bill Desowitz, Tom Sears and Stuart Heritage, all of whom agree that OHMSS is the series zenith. Bond crew Roger Moore, John Glen and Barbaba Broccoli have also agreed that ‘Majesty’s’ proved to be one of the series best films. Whatever one feels about Lazenby, the film is inarguably a terrific one, one that should be held in the same breath as Goldfinger and Casino Royale, both of which were more than sufficiently represented in ‘Designing 007’.

Why the same wasn’t afforded to ‘Majesty’s’ is unusual, given the high quality of the music, fight scenes and snowy locations put on its print. Upon entering a snowy compartment of the museum, the scene showed a ski-ing sequence from For Your Eyes Only , the cello escape from The Living Daylights and, glaringly, scenes set in Iceland from Die Another Day. Where ‘Day’ featured MTV style editing that had dated by the film’s release, ‘Majesty’s’ features a ski scene that Christopher Nolan paid homage to Inception. Can you really equate those two? No.

This neglection not-withstanding, the exhibition proved as titillating as the title implied it would be, a screened display showing the various title sequences over four televisions an indictment the progress the film series has seen over half a century as Maurice Binder’s psychedelics from Dr No sat nicely with Daniel Kleinman’s Faustian shadows from Skyfall .

As the tour ended, finding myself in the bar with a ticket for a free beverage, I turned to the barman, with my best Scottish accent, and asked for a ‘vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred.’ I was given a Heineken. I had to laugh. I may have visited a Bond museum, but the Bond benefits are still only attributed to those lucky six who played the part.

Click here for details of the Designing 007 exhibition in Madrid

Eoghan Lyng is a James Bond enthusiast and obsessee. Other James Bond reports can be found on his Twitter @EoghanLyng.

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