Director Steven Soderbergh declares 'O.H.M.S.S' the best James Bond film
Director Steven Soderbergh has posted his feelings about how 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' is the best James Bond film on his personal blog
Having made films I feel were not entirely understood or appreciated upon their initial release (or ever, even), I have a soft spotâabout two inches in diameter, just below my right armpitâfor films that endured a similar fate. In this case, I believe Peter Hunt made a great Bond film that wasnât considered great when it came out.
For me thereâs no question that cinematically ON HER MAJESTYâS SECRET SERVICE is the best Bond film and the only one worth watching repeatedly for reasons other than pure entertainment (certainly itâs the only Bond film I look at and think: Iâm stealing that shit). Shot to shot, this movie is beautiful in a way none of the other Bond films areâthe anamorphic compositions are relentlessly arrestingâand the editing patterns of the action sequences are totally bananas; itâs like Peter Hunt (who cut the first five Bond films) took all the ideas of the French new wave and blended them with Eisenstein in a Cuisinart to create a grammar that still tops todayâs how fast can you cut aesthetic, because the difference here is that each of the shotsâno matter how shortâare real shots, not just additional coverage from the hosing-it-down school of action, so there is a unification of the aesthetic of the first unit and the second unit that doesnât exist in any other Bond film. And, speaking of action, there are as many big set pieces in OHMSS as any Bond film ever made, and if that werenât enough, thereâs a great score by John Barry, some really striking sound work, and what can you say about Diana Rigg that doesnât start with the word WOW?
So whatâs wrong with it? George Lazenby, but not for the reasons you might think. I actually like himâa lotâand think he could have made a terrific Bond had he continued (allegedly he decided before the shoot was over he would only play the part once). What seems obvious to me, though, is no one was helping him during the shoot or the edit (they wonât even let him finish a fucking sentence onscreen). It feels like everyone was so focused on what he wasnât (Sean Connery) that they didnât take the time to figure out what he was (a cool-looking dude with genuine presence and great physicality). For instance, they should have known that a lot of the one-liners that would have worked with Connery donât work with Lazenby. This isnât because heâs bad, itâs because his entire affect is different, less glib. This, to me, is a lack of sensitivity and understanding on the part of the filmmakers and not a shortcoming of the lead actor, because Lazenby has one thing you canât fake, which is a certain kind of gravitas. Despite this, there is no attempt to bring it out or amplify it, which is a huge missed opportunity. Also, Lazenby has a vulnerability that Connery never hadâthere are scenes in which he looks legitimately terrified and others in which he convinces us that he is in love with Tracy (particularly in the final scene), which brings us to another reason OHMSS is so distinctiveâitâs the only Bond film with a female character that isnât a cartoon, and the only film in which Bond is so completely frustrated with his bosses he wants and tries to quit. In fact, everything about the film suggests a reboot before the idea of rebooting was even in the air, much less fashionable (especially the ending, which you could never get away with today).
Another (albeit small) problem for me is the cheesiness of the process shots in all of the action sequences, particularly the skiing stuff. Again, the editing patterns in these sequences are so stunning Iâm able to disregard the VFX and appreciate what Peter Hunt was trying to do, but man, they are really cheesy.
The third problem is the film is too fucking long, the longest Bond film until Casino Royale nearly three decades later. One huge trim should have been made, from 1:06:00 to 1:14:45. No new narrative information is transmitted in this section, itâs just Bond screwing chicks and stuff we learn eventually in other scenes. Also, later on, Iâm not sure of the efficacy of Blofeld locking Bond in an engine room with a pretty obvious escape route, but I guess thatâs what was handy.
Obviously none of these quibbles affect my love for the film, and I am far from the first person to champion its many merits (the film now regularly scores quite high in the Bond fan polls). I just thought it was about time I memorialized my feelings, given the fact I have an autographed picture of Lazenby as Bond in my house.
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