Quantum of Solace

Marc Foster (2008). Loews Kip's Bay.

Casino Royale ended under the burning sweat-sucked Mediterranean sun, as Quantum ends under the frozen back alley snows of Moscow. This James Bond, not so unlike his predecessors, forms punchlines by locale (the Italian horse race, the gambling motif moved from the baccarat table to the metaphysical racetrack) cut-and-pasted to violence (the chase after the embedded QUANTUM agent through a jungle of an old city which Bond masterfully lopes about, spiralling upside-down from ropes and I-beams, and yet a bullseye shooter in the brutal dance of Special Branch agents). The Daniel Craig Bond movies enjoy construction-site set pieces, reflecting a world not intact, in the state of regaining structure, and 007, seeming roguish to M.(om) who longs for the Cold War (frightened by but veteranly faithful in Bond), knows how to navigate this world, by Aston Martin, jalopy boat and cargo plane. The violence is then crosscut to opera (the silent montage lobby and kitchen shootout, the intelligence snatched by Bond's only gadget - digital camera - amidst the vast Moonrakerish theater). Still, it was not so appropriate that the one-liners, the attempts at quick Bond wry schtick, were meager. And if the dramatic sweep of Giancarlo Gianni's sacrificial lamb was not as tidal as his character's initial re-introduction purports to suggest, Bond ends up leaving his corpse in the dumpster. It would seem that Felix Leiter, as employed in this movie, would do the same for Bond if in a similar predicament. 
The initial revenge plot does transcend its made-for-cable histrionics, largely inspired by the Euro-crat villain, Dominic Greene, a sly froggy entrepreneur of the axis of evil, whose justifications lie in the pragmatism of geopolitics, and who dispatches innocent "Strawberry (according to the credits) Fields" with a full-body cast of oil, as if the ill-developed sexpot were an installation by Damien Hirst. This was the most blatant of Bond homages, as equally clunky as the more subtler (For Yr Eyes VW, Spy Who Loved Me performance scene, the Astin Martin). These are brutal lean times, M despairs of Bond's emotional motivations, and so Bond himself becomes the gadget, his body a work of today's advanced technology, given the mystic moral stance by which 007 barrels and stomps and careens and fires. Greene should have been much more exotic, with at least a deformity or grotesque proclivity, and the Bolivian dictator could have walked out of a Vin Diesel movie. This Bond fan still prefers the Chris Cornell song for Casino Royale, of which a bit Jack White lifted. Perhaps Marc Forster is more a fake artist than genuine crafter (Monster's Ball notwithstanding, his pedigree proves such) and the script is co-credited to the all-time contemporary Hollywood fake artist, Paul Haggis. High Bond marks though to the Le Corbu styled desert compound, the plastic visible reality of the Quantum of Solace, where Bond and Cam have their most perverse and intimate moment, at the brink of double-suicide, Bond about to turn the gun on himself. Thematically, this is a good gritty touch of the arc landing again where it began, and Bond has traditionally got the death wish, however it seems that, besides the graceful intensity of the early Italian chase/fistfight sequence, one is never giddy about Quantum of Solace. And a Bond movie must, ultimately, be more giddy than grave. J.Bauer and J.Bourne are grave enough supersoldier Bond-children for the 00s. Not enough of the prodigious charm of the first line of Ian Fleming's original short story, nor the evidence of the second paragraph's second line (though Bond does compel his foe to imbibe motor oil in the desert as if the mezcal). quantumstory2.jpg

Check baronial rum-slinger Alexander Cockburn's breakdown of the 007 mythos upon Commander Bond's 50th anniversary.

Mad Men - Season 2. "The Jet Set" (epi. 11); "The Mountain King" (epi. 12); "Meditations In An Emergency" (epi. 13 ).

"The warm, dark places into which one would have crawled, into which a whole nation of silent fugitives (guided by a rainbow or an oracle) would have crept hauling baskets and infants, are turned inside out." 
Geoffrey O'Brien, 'Suburbs,' Dream Time: Chapters From the Sixties.

As the late 1950s hinged at the early 1960s, a shift of paradigm occurred in America when hierarchies of WASP socio-economy gave way to multiculturalism, sexual awakening, Pop Irony and a refashioning of the means and ends of power. It is an era abundant with ideas of the regression and sublimation of consciousness. Of the artifice of surroundings.

On Mad Men, drama relies very little on exterior settings. The story unfolds inside offices, houses, department stores, bars, hotel rooms. Occasionally, a park scene is depicted, replete with frivolous but timely environmental dispossession, or a furtive departure from curb to taxi out front the Hotel Pierre.

When circumstances draw Don and Pete to Los Angeles, suddenly the exteriors are exposed, and when Don takes to the Palm Beach poolside in his Madison Avenue suit, he naturally passes out from sunstroke. L.A. triggers the eruption of Don's inner life. The job is abandoned (trusted to the green hands of a displaced Campbell), the hat and suit are shed in favor of sunglasses and cabana shorts. It is Draper's Hour of the Wolf, where the Artist, at a psychic crossroads in coastal lands, finds a luxuriant abode of arabesque people, and these people, who introduce exotic things (like Mexican food and incestual family mores), both venerate Don and cackle at him, and they are silly and frightening in their nonchalant disdain of ordinary means. Don is called on to reimagine his "career," delve its invisible affects and realities. The Count and his expatriate entourage are only desperate idlers, and must ever dissimulate with flash and taboo their own Euro-tragic demise.
Don retreats to his nebulous roots in San Pedro, the exurb of the Port of Los Angeles (where Art Pepper, the lapsed St. Augustine of So Cal jazz, chronicled a riotous recurrence of rebirth). Intimations of the Opti-Man post-human project are made, a California brand, (which Campbell relates with the same enthusiasm of spotting Tony Curtis in the men's room). Don transgresses the space-hole, fresh from the Pacific Ocean's primordial soup, and returns to autumn New York in his camelskin topcoat and adventuresomely removed brown fedora. When challenged to defend his craft by Duck Phillips - the booze besting Duck's comportment at the merger meeting – Draper (Whitman, mystic poet) is steadfast in his allegiance to the Art.

Having attended a conference in the deep-freeze subterranean presentation room where bullet points of nuclear warfare were illustrated, Don is prepared for the apocalyptic headlines of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most citizens are not - Father John Gill seems a bit of obsessed with the scientific insinuations of hell-bent disaster. His sermon uses metaphors of Final "summit meetings," and he warns Peggy of the judgment fires no less than he warns himself.

Charitable acts are undertaken – Duck to Pete as new head of Accounts; Pete's secret information of the merger to Don; the flashback "divorce" of Don and Anna. Up to now Peggy has applied her church-going only to business interests (her consultation on the parish social, The Last Supper thematics reflected when she eponymously bestows plastic cups of whiskey to Cosgrove and Salvatore in advance of the Popsicle presentation). Peggy (since given a makeover by her new gay European friend, fortuitously arrived) is begged by Father Gill to reconcile her breach with the Absolute, and so she does, perhaps engaging an act of charity upon herself, by revealing to Pete the bygone calamity of his orphaned sire. Pete responds, "Why would you tell me this?"

Various characters question the motivation of those who extend a truth to them. "What are you doing?" asks Betty's modish quickie, a proto-Mayor John V. Lindsay from the dim, scarlet shadows of the midtown cocktail lounge at the end of the earth. Betty never seems to fully enjoy herself during this assignation, but assuredly emerges satisfied. Betty, earlier in the ob-gyn office, contemplates the framed needlework of fawn and mother deer as gravely as Campbell later poses his hunting rifle in the office after the rest of Sterling Cooper has fled. And Joan, last of the Sabine Women but first as practitioner of the Women's Lib, doesn't like French cuisine (epitome of the old florid New York), but willing to try the new chef's menu at La Cote Basque. . .

Mad Men - Season 2. "The Inheritance" (epi. 10).

(2008) Matthew Weiner.

A melodrama about ad execs will evoke true emptiness where true forms are yet seen. This is a pattern which insinuates much of Mad Men. But instead of beating the old typical rug of how shallow and manipulative the industry is, the truths of Mad Men creep as furtively upon the viewer as they do the characters. "Nobody has what you have," sneers Don Draper's father-in-law, Gene Driscoll (himself a certain void of his old self), "He has no people!" At first the old man would seem to contradict himself, deranged as he is, though his words in fact do ring with ratiocination, that since Draper has "no people," he is, at least to old Gene, "Nobody." A deeper inspection of this confrontation finds the perverse competition of virility, as the old man's ischemic events have caused the apprehension of his own daughter as his own dead wife, and so Draper, strapping and glamorous, becomes a gross sex rival (to whom Betty later retreats for a long-missed vigorous midnight rogering, tho she has banished Don to slumber on the floor).

Betty's disavowal of Don bounds back furiously upon her in the course of the episode. She bears the brunt of some gruesome psychosexual victimization, as if guest-directed by Roman Polanski. She knows she is right about Don's faithlessness, but is helpless to prove it, and helpless to articulate the surfacing personal dysfunctions of her life, and so, throughout the previous two episodes, "Bertie" mopes haughtily through the sunlit rooms of her house, drunk and chain-smoking. Then, suddenly, a neighbor's infatuated adolescent child, hiding in Betty's yard at night, offers to rescue her, to run away ("I have money," the boy reassures), like disturbed lovers in a 40s pulp novel. And so is it only perfect that 'The Inheritance' ends with Don & Pete en route to the most exultant of hollow and pulp livelihoods, Los Angeles.

joanie.jpgAnd the Campbell brothers signing off on their father's crippled Estate, the ghost of the unknown patriarch looming among those high cold oak chambers where Mother Campbell shows snide contempt for Pete's rift in the family's devolved issue. . .

Freddy Rumsen, too, before his final send-off from Sterling Cooper, suggests the quandary of inner and outer realities. Prior to his fit of incontinence, he rehearses a script for Samsonite luggage. "I hate my Silhouette," Freddy recites lucidly, "cause it's empty." He then conks out.
Anchoring all this tension, at least at the office, is shapely, comely, rosy Joan, whose sultry, knowing tones and prodigious curves propose supremely the "ineluctable modality of the visible." Like Warren says, "She's so much woman."