I’m a big fan of the 1960s and ‘70s James Bond films, not for their ridiculous plots and casual sexism, but for their epic costume and set design. You Only Live Twice from 1967 is my favourite.
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We start with the distinctly sci-fi giant squid-like spaceship (totally NOT a miniature model against a painted backdrop, OK) which opens at the front and gobbles up other spacecraft just like that. A strong visual (and geopolitical) statement if ever there was one.
Shortly thereafter we cut to a top secret crisis summit between the USA and USSR governments held - naturally - in an ultra-chic and minimalist geodesic dome. CAN WE PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO TALK ABOUT THOSE DESKS AND THE LABORATORY-INSPIRED WATER JUGS??
Bond must head to Tokyo to prevent war between the Americans and the Soviets, and to stop general space armageddon from happening, but not until we've all taken a step back to appreciate some mid-century typography:
Wait a minute, why is this girl talking into her clutch?
OMG it's a bag phone! They're very high-tech, those Japanese.
IS THIS A 1967 PRECURSOR TO THE MOBILE PHONE? SO MUCH MORE GLAMOUROUS THAN AN IPHONE, JUST SAYIN
Enter 007 (Sean Connery) and Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi). What stylish outfits for an evening at the Sumo wrestling arena (although evidently neither got the kimono memo)
Aki's driving headscarf is EPIC, in a Gulf Air uniform kind of way.
Love a bit of Japanese aestheticism:
The problem with paper walls, though, is that you can get knifed right through them, just like that. In your own home and everything. The audacity.
(mercifully, there is no blood to disrupt the neutral colour scheme)
Now we cut to THE UNBELIEVABLY STYLISH brutalist headquarters of the Osato Chemical & Engineering Company.
Look, if you're going to be beaten up by a thug in a beige suit, it might as well be in the presence of FLAWLESS MODERNIST FURNITURE:
A CONCEALED, WALK-IN DRINKS CABINET. Literally, everything I aspire to.
This elevator lobby is pretty much AESTHETIC PERFECTION:
Chic concrete porte-cochère:
Now we find ourselves on the subway chasing the mysterious Aki through more minimal-brutalist URBAN SPACES:
OH NO! It's a trap:
WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Very Carsten Höller. Very Miuccia Prada's office.
Through the hatch:
And PLOP! Straight into a modernist chair. Pretty slick, if you ask me.
And so we find ourselves in another drop-dead chic office:
That desk lamp! And what are those bronze bobbles?
CCTV monitors! Did CCTV even exist in 1967, or did the film-makers "invent" it? Either way, the heavy use of surveillance video in the film is strangely prescient given the CCTV-everywhere society we live in today.
AND WE NEED TO DISCUSS TETSURO'S FLAWLESS TAILORING AND ARNE JACOBSEN HIGH-BACK CATHERINE CHAIR:
Bond doesn't look too shabby either:
Into the time-capsule elevator:
Tetsuro knows how to do things in style: "My private subway train, I never travel in the streets of Tokyo"
The Scandi-Japanese aesthetic from his office continues on the train, where a hostess in a kimono serves sake. NOT QUITE THE CENTRAL LINE DURING THE RUSH HOUR, IS IT?
Just to get this straight, at this point we're drinking sake in a screening room on-board a private subway train:
WHO ARE THESE GIRLS??
I LOVE this kitsch-y mid-century thing of having faux rock formations and tropical plants indoors:
That WAS relaxing. Now we're back for another look at Mr Osato's impeccable interior design:
THIS IS JUST INTERIOR PERFECTION, WORDS CANNOT DESCRIBE:
"You're three and a half minutes early, please wait in here"
EEEK, an ominous shutter shuts behind Bond as he goes in:
Not a bad space in which to be trapped, mind you:
Never mind, here comes Mr Osato:
And his glamorous "private personal assistant" Helga:
"I always take a glass of champagne in the morning, it adds a sparkle to your day"
THAT WALK-IN BAR AGAIN.
"A Dom Pérignon '59?"
Mr Osato's mirror-fronted desk is something else:
It has in-built X-ray technology so he can scan his visitors for weapons:
While Helga serves the Dom P, Mr Osata retains his poker face:
Mr Bond (masquerading as Mr Fischer) models a sharp navy suit:
At this juncture, 007 has left the building and Helga has just been instructed to organise his death. She notes this in her memo pad:
UH OH, suited assassins in a stylish sedan:
Aki calls for back-up on another mobile phone-like device:
Her car has integrated video conferencing... pretty neat:
(THAT IS TOTALLY NOT A PRINTED PHOTO IN A FRAME, OKAAAAY)
The car chase takes us past some space age architecture:
WHAT'S THIS?! The baddies don't know what's about to hit them:
A giant magnet!
AND RELEASE - STRAIGHT INTO THE SEA. SPLASH!!
What are these? They look ominous...
We take a break for RUNNING, FIGHTING, JUMPING, SHOOTING and STABBING, before we find ourselves in Helga's cabin on Osato's boat.
"Leave him to me now. And shut the door"
UH OH, THIS DOESN'T LOOK GOOD....
"Do you know what this is? Plastic surgeons call it a dermatome. They use it to slice off skin"
OBVIOUSLY, I am skipping bits here, but let's just say Bond gets out of that sticky situation with Helga, only to find himself slap back in another one. Here we are in a small aircraft (notice Helga's multi-tasking skills as she flies the plane while doing her make-up) but little does 007 know Helga is about to deploy her LIPSTICK BOMB:
IMMA LEAVE YOU IN THIS BURNING AIRCRAFT WITH NOBODY FLYING IT
Not to worry, though, Bond gets himself out of that situ as well. Time to recuperate with a picnic. Aki's dress is v Raf's last collection for Jil Sander:
Tetsuro rocks more tailoring:
UH OH, helicopter assassins. His look is very on-brand for me, TBH. All-black with a hint of cyborg.
BANG BANG BOOOOOM BOOOOM TAKE THAT BANG BANG GUNS ACTION BANG BANG
Meanwhile in Russia, a stylish space rocket (which is TOTALLY NOT A MARKER PEN AND DRY ICE, OK) blasts off:
While back in Japan, Bond is about to discover Blofeld's secret lair....
A HOLLOWED-OUT VOLCANO WITH A RETRACTABLE CRATER
WITH A ROCKET LAUNCHING PAD INSIDE:
That is a STATEMENT STAIRCASE if ever there was one:
An accident waiting to happen with no handrails, mind you.
It is quite big inside the volcano, so there is a monorail around the perimeter:
UH OH, IT'S EVIL KITTY'S FIRST APPEARANCE:
Many more close-up shots of Blofeld's cat follow. Did this film pre-empt the internet's obsession with cats? I IZ EVIL KITTUF LOLZ
Blofeld's office is quite postmodern in its design (before postmodernism existed, natch), with its odd mix of old and new.
Here comes Hans the beefy German bodyguard:
Tense negotiations; nice glasses:
Blofeld's pond isn't just a kitsch design element. It contains PIRANHAS.
When he presses the pedal under his desk...
THE BRIDGE OPENS AND SPLAAAAAAAAAAAAASH
"You will see that my piranha fish get very hungry. They can strip a man to the bone in 30 seconds"
Goodbye Helga, you're fish food :/
While Helga is devoured by bloodthirsty aquatic craniates, Bond finds himself in a futuristic beauty parlour having a Japanese makeover, so he can pose as a local peasant fisherman (as you do).
OMG IT'S SUCH AN AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL MOMENT
We take a break from modernism, for another hit of traditional Japanese design:
Nice hat x2:
UH OH, the crater is opening up again. Is another evil spaceship-eating craft about to be dispatched into space to provoke the world's global superpowers to go to war and annihilate each other?
PHEW, it's just a helicopter arriving:
Oooh there are bubble cars on the monorail as well:
What's going down in room A? Not a lot, just an astronaut chillin' on an Eames chair:
We cut away to the Pentagon, where some important video conferencing is happening:
Back at the volcano lair, we suddenly see Blofeld's face for the first time. GOOD GOD, HE'S UGLY. But in a totally editorial way. Edgy chic. Fashion loooooves his look. Eat your heart out, Rick Genest.
"Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld"
How PRADA is that high-collar and over-sized button, though? His chair is Totally Important too. It's like the bastard child of an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair and a revolving office chair.
Blofeld and Hans totally have a thing going on. Kitty's third-wheeling here:
Cheekbones so sharp CHU CLD SLICE A BITCH WITH THEM:
Another view of the pirhana pool. The church candles are really working for me, tbt.
What's hidden behind this rock?
A big lever:
UH OH, IT WAS THE "VOLCANO ERUPT" SWITCH:
BAIL INTO THE SEA, EVACUATE, EVACUATE:
And so it ends as Bond films always do, with 007 eating the face off a pretty girl in a life raft:
What a movie.