When you've been a cinematic icon for half a century, you're bound to pick up some baggage. In James Bond's case, most of that baggage has just arrived in Toronto.
Designing 007: Fifty Years Of Bond Style, opens in the gallery space at TIFF Bell Lightbox tomorrow (Friday) and runs through January 20, 2013. (It'll be supported by considerable film programming, about which more below.)
Speaking at the press day, TIFF Head of Film Programmes Jesse Wente explained that that the exhibition "looks at the influence of the Bond films on our culture, technology and fashion" - and that influence goes well beyond whichever designer is providing Bond's dinner jacket. The Bond films teach us to aspire to better things: good food, fine wine, great clothes, tricked-out cars ... and like anything that's been around long enough to imprint itself upon generations, its world has begun leaking into our own. What is Frank Gehry's AGO but a fortress after Karl Stromberg's own heart?
Not that Designing 007 makes that point explicitly. It's more about the clothes and the gadgets and the gorgeous production design of Ken Adam, all of which are celebrated at length within the show.
Starting with an alcove devoted to Bond's creator, the author Ian Fleming - complete with a replica of Fleming's gold-plated typewriter - the exhibit runs mazelike through TIFF's gallery space, mimicking the locked-down structure of a Bond film. We're ushered into M's office, where we find various pieces of prop ID, including a distressing number of passports with James Bond's name on them - doesn't the guy usually travel undercover? - and Bond's American Express black card.
Then it's off to the shiny stuff, including the sole full-size replica of an iconic Bond scene - the gold-covered body of Jill Masterson, here re-created with a mannequin in panties on a rotating circular bed. It's the one off note in the exhibit; it's hard to ooh and aah over producer Albert R. Broccoli's Thalberg award and Goldfinger's Oscar (for Best Sound Editing) when there's a glittering nude corpse spinning around behind you.
Move along, and you can forget all about the way the series regards its female characters with a trip to Q branch, where most of the series' gadgets have ended up. There's the Hasselblad camera that turned into a sniper rifle in Licence To Kill; there's the briefcase filled with diamonds from Die Another Day. The amphibious Lotus Esprit (from The Spy Who Loved Me) is represented by a pair of miniatures, and other inventions are seen as schematics or production sketches. There's even a little nook for Q's ID card and mug - that'd be the Skyfall version of the character, played by Ben Whishaw.
Next up, there's the casino room, for every Bond film must include a scene where our hero dons a tux and attends a ball to get closer to the baddie du jour. It's dinner jackets and evening gowns aplenty, with a few nicely chosen props - the bottle of 1955 Dom Perignon with which Dr. No refused to be clubbed, an assortment of chips and cards from Casino Royale, ever so many necklaces.
Over to the side, there's a doorway leading to a rogue's gallery - but on entering the area we're confronted with a giant image of Madonna, who was only bad from the standpoint of her acting as a fencing instructor in Die Another Day. Turns out it's a costume gallery, with wardrobes for various characters from the series who didn't spend much time in evening wear. Michelle Yeoh and Halle Berry's fighting attire from Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day share a case; Olga Kurylenko's sand-scuffed gown from Quantum Of Solace and Lois Chiles' gauzy Moonraker wardrobe are also around.
Actual villainy is represented by Rosa Klebb's poisoned shoe from From Russia With Love (which looks like it's barely survived five decades of storage), Xenia Onatopp's GoldenEye leathers and a few props from Charles Gray's turn as Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. Strangely, Gray is the only Blofeld the exhibit acknowledges; if there were any artifacts from Donald Pleasance in You Only Live Twice or Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I missed them.
Head back through the casino to the next section, where we're immersed in the Roger Moore years. There's a replica of Solitaire's tarot table in Live And Let Die and some space kitsch from Moonraker, followed by costumes from The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy. The Timothy Dalton films are represented by a few miniatures from The Living Daylights; then it's into the Brosnan era with props and storyboards from GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies. And on the way out, you can look at one of Javier Bardem's Skyfall suits and wonder how it'll figure in the film.
The exhibition was originally mounted at the Barbican in London - if you bought the Bond 50 Blu-ray set released last month, there's a featurette about it on the bonus disc - and is being supplemented during its TIFF run by a series of film programs.
This Friday night, there's Bond Vs. Blofeld, a marathon screening of all six films featuring Bond's arch-nemesis - though "featuring" is kind of a stretch, as the character barely appears in three of them. Ah, what the hell, it's a good excuse to see From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever and For Your Eyes Only back-to-back on a big screen, and the whole thing costs just $24. The show starts at 7 pm and runs to about 1 pm Saturday. Bring a catheter.
Almost as soon as it's over - at 2 pm Saturday afternoon - TIFF starts screening the entire Bond canon in chronological order with Shaken, Not Stirred: Bond On Film. (And by "canon," that means "every film made under the EON Productions banner," so forget about seeing the 1967 Casino Royale and the 1983 Connery vehicle Never Say Never Again, the two non-franchise Bond pictures.)
Each film will be screened multiple times, but only that first show of Dr. No will be introduced by Lindy Hemming, a veteran costume designer on the series who worked on all four of Pierce Brosnan's outings and Daniel Craig's Casino Royale. (Hemming's not the only celebrity guest: John Glen, who served as the series director from For Your Eyes Only through Licence To Kill, will sit down with Jesse Wente for an In Conversation With ... session on December 10, and then present a screening of Octopussy.)
And that's still not all. TIFF has one more film series tied to the exhibit, Colin Geddes' Beyond Bond: The Other Secret Agents. Geddes has organized a selection of spy films that exist in Bond's shadow, from cash-ins like The Silencers and Deadlier Than The Male to more considered attempts to re-evaluate the genre like The Ipcress File and Three Days Of The Condor.
Curiously absent are James Coburn's Derek Flint pictures, which Mike Myers fed upon for the Austin Powers series as much as the Bond films, and Maro Bava's trippy pop-art thriller Danger: Diabolik. But we do get the second of Michel Hazanavicius's OSS 117 spoofs, Lost In Rio, which finds the director and his future Artist star Jean Dujardin sending up the Bond films with more precision than wit.
Tickets for the exhibition and the screenings are available here. And don't forget, Skyfall opens November 9.