Thursday, April 23, 2015

You Only Live Twice (1967) Women

The first woman we see Bond with in You Only Live Twice is "Chinese Girl." Her name isn't the only mystery about her; the movie doesn't even care what side she's on. In fact, Bond's whole fake death is hard to figure out. Is Chinese Girl working for SPECTRE to lure Bond into a trap or is she MI6 and in on the charade? What about the guys who shoot Bond? They're apparently not using real bullets, so they have to be good guys, right?

The only thing I can figure is that M must hope that someone witnessing Bond's "death" is going to report that information back to SPECTRE. Otherwise, M could just plant a fake obituary in the paper and be done with it. So if the gunmen aren't SPECTRE agents, CG must be a good guy too. If she were actually working for SPECTRE, why would she contact M's fake assassins to kill Bond? It doesn't make sense that she'd have a real person in SPECTRE to report Bond's death to, but then have to call bogus killers. Even if she thinks she's working for SPECTRE, her actual contact with the organization has to be part of an elaborate sting.

So, who does M hope will provide an eyewitness account of Bond's death? The only thing that makes sense to me is that it's one of the policemen who arrives after Bond is shot. MI6 must know there's a mole in that group. Which may also explain why they go to the trouble to actually bury Bond at sea. Maybe the mole - or another like him - has enough access to have actually seen the burial preparations.

Which is all way more thought than Roald Dahl put into the caper or the character of CG.

Tiger Tanaka's agent Aki is pretty cool. She's apparently a top spy in the organization and she saves Bond's bacon a number of times. But she's too easily dismissed before the ship chase and there's no real chemistry between her and Bond. That is, Bond doesn't really have chemistry with anyone in this movie, but actor Akiko Wakabayashi also delivers a confusing performance. Aki is smart, resourceful, and instigates the romance with Bond, but she kisses him with chaste little pecks that suggest she's not as into him as she pretends to be. Or maybe she's just a bad kisser. Either way, she and Bond don't feel right as a couple and it feels like they're thrown together because that's what's supposed to happen in a Bond movie.

I used to think of Helga Brandt as a sexier substitute for Irma Bunt, Blofeld's wife in the novel, but other than the similar names they don't really have anything in common. There's not a hint of romance between her and Blofeld - quite the contrary, actually - and Bunt doesn't do anything in the book. Brandt is much more active.

That's mostly only true in relation to Bunt though. Brandt is supposed to be an assassin in the spirit of Thunderball's Fiona, but she's nowhere near as cool or efficient. She bungles her easy chance to kill Bond by trading it in for a chance to sleep with him. Like Aki though, there's no motivation for her to do that. She's just doing it because that's what hot villains are apparently supposed to do.

Finally, there's Kissy Suzuki, who isn't that interesting either. The coolest thing about her is that she's all business at first. In fact, "It's business" seems to be her motto and that's really endearing. But after spending a day with Bond she succumbs to his... I don't know, stone-faced staring? Anyway, they make out a couple of times. She serves the plot, but doesn't turn out to be much of a character either.

One nice thing is that none of the women suddenly turns incompetent partway through the movie. That's still not a thing yet in the series. But of all the women of You Only Live Twice, the only one to crack my Top Ten is Aki. Her relationship with Bond is weird, but she's a cool spy and I wish there was a whole separate movie series of her adventures.

My Favorite Bond Women

1. Paula Caplan (Thunderball)
2. Tatiana Romanova (From Russia With Love)
3. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
4. Domino Derval (Thunderball)
5. Honey Rider (Dr. No)
6. Sylvia Trench (Dr. No and From Russia With Love)
7. Aki (You Only Live Twice)
8. Pussy Galore (Goldfinger)
9. Tilly Masterson (Goldfinger)
10. Jill Masterson (Goldfinger)

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