Friday, March 9, 2012

Out of breath: an empty Bond

Breathless is a movie about how movies lie to us. About how trying to act as our on screen heroes act can poison and destroy the communication we need for actual relationships. A man who can't talk about his feelings tries to live the all outside life, the life of the movies, where every action and scene is external, and no internal monologue brings no regret.

He wears the clothes of a gangster, but they fit him poorly. He talks in the phrases of the gangster, but is less well understood. There is a sworn allegiance to his own idea of Bogart, but the outcome for him isn't as he might have imagined the script.

Michel Poiccard steals the car, beats up the guy, and shoots the cop, but in the end for no applause and no girl. The movie fantasy, acted out, has undone this man's life. What he has idealized has led to his own betrayal. Never seeing his own heroes having done so he has not said "I love you" and so his love has left him, sure that he doesn't.

Breathless is a movie that says watching movies is dangerous because they tell a story we can't follow.

I wonder if I didn't do the same as Michel, in my own way.

James Bond debuted on the movie screen in 1962, and it was in 1963's From Russia with Love that he delivered the line "Red wine with fish...well that should have told me something". In Dr. No he had said no to the doctor's preference for '55 Dom Perignon over the '53. The blind guesses were always apparently correct. The directions to bartenders always sounded urbane. Here was a man who appeared on screen to know his beverages and what he was about. An ideal.

As a kid growing up, we watched the Bond movies all the time. Thinking about my own inspirations, it certainly wasn't the Paul Masson ads starring Orson Welles that got me interested in wine. Forget that. I wanted to wear the tailored suits and drink the fine vintages. I wanted to deliver the quick quips and maybe, just maybe, win the hearts of fine women. I hoped to say my wine lines with discernible authority and aplomb, and I'll tell you what, I don't think I was alone. In fact, I would say that in the late '90s the only-the-best-will-do luxury expert was perhaps the defining model for "sommelier" in the United States. And I tried to live up to it, going broke and developing a shallow relationship with wine in the process.

And it is only because I have changed that I can see that now. These days I'm more likely to spend real time with wines that I love, and let me tell you, they aren't all perfect beauties. But we get on. And most of what I've learned about wine has come about through listening, and not trying to be the smartest guy in the room. I never saw James Bond give credit to a small farmer for his hard work, but now I try to whenever possible. Sometimes the make believe that we see on the screen is a bad example.

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