Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nobody Does it Better

The TIFF Lightbox only opened a couple of years ago. It's the newish home of the Toronto International Film Festival, and year-round it's got great programming of films you're not likely to see in many other places. The building is excellently designed, the theatres are a pleasure to sit in, and some of them (for the Cinematheque showings) don't allow popcorn and drinks. This is in accordance with the old Cinematheque tradition, when showings took place in Jackman Hall in the Art Gallery of Ontario, where the only thing you could take in was bottled water. The lights always went down very low and the pre-show music was perfectly chosen for the film being shown. Rarely before had I lost myself so entirely in a movie experience.

Now, in time for the 50th anniversary of James Bond on film, the Lightbox is hosting Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style which unveiled earlier this year at London's Barbican Centre.

Now readers of my other blog will know that I get frustrated at exhibits, and tend to avoid the big, busy ones at all costs. There is one exhibit which still stands out to me as the finest of my experience, so in general I'm a bit of a fusspot when it comes to these sorts of events.

The good news is that Designing 007 is not very big, and they have sensible controls as to how many people can go through it at once. My only quibble was the very start of the exhibit where several large historical panels of information on Ian Fleming's life and contacts were crammed together quite tightly in a space that didn't let many people read without feeling rushed. But other than that, things were very good.

As the TIFF website tells us, the exhibit is... "the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Bond, featuring costumes, props, models, gadgets, concept artwork, storyboards and other fascinating artifacts from the series. Signature Bond items featured in the exhibition include the steel teeth worn by Richard “Jaws” Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); the Anthony Sinclair overcoat worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962); the poker table from Casino Royale (2006); and multiple gadgets from Q Branch."

Most of the items were original, with a few identified as replicas, especially the clothing. Special features included a wall of screens, all showing Bond opening credits (including the saucy ones by Maurice Binder) and a display cabinet with Halle Berry's bikini, Daniel Craig's blue trunks from Casino Royale (gulp), and replica's of Ursula Andress's bikini and Sean Connery's trunks from Dr. No. Gosh.

The highlight for me was the discovery of the sketches by Sir Ken Adam, the production designer for many Bond films. In simple mainly monochrome drawings, he conveyed the mad magnificence of Blofeld's lair or the Moonraker launch pad. They are stunning. The TIFF shop carries a book of his work, but I didn't indulge. I'm so hopelessly behind in reading, I'm almost giving up.

That evening, I had my friend Dave over, and we watched Casino Royale in preparation for the big opening night of the latest Bond film, Skyfall. I like to think I was only mildly annoying each time I said, "Oh, we saw that prop today!" I think plying him with the newly acquired Cardhu helped.

Designing 007 continues til January 20, 2013. I recommend!

Below you see a Ken Adams sketch for the volcano interior in You Only Live Twice; Sean Connery and the iconic Aston Martin during filming of Goldfinger; a TIFF website image.

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