I went to see Goldfinger at the Tyneside I think on a slightly wistful whim. Any James Bond film reminds me of the weekends of my childhood, and I thought seeing the film on a big screen would do it justice.
The title sequence alone highlighted why streaming a film on your laptop sometimes really isn’t good enough. It highlighted the skill and creativity of the artists who came up with such a pivotal and still recognisable sequence with far less developed technology than we have today. This with the soothing strains of Shirley Bassey was almost enough to make you forget to notice quite how questionable the rest of the film is.
Almost. It was not, as it turns out, enough to cover so much coercive sex, blatant misogyny, and use of people of colour to play Goldfinger’s workmen. This film caused me to think about how often we tend to glaze over the deeply troubling aspects of classics (and, indeed, modern films) to enjoy good cinematography and stories. All too often we hear the excuse that “things were different then” is used to justify these ‘classics’, and to watch and enjoy them we must glaze over these aspects, coughcough almost every line in the film cough.
Because it is true, I did enjoy the film and it was amazing and highly appropriate to see it in the ‘classic’ screen. Indeed, I liked it so much that the announcement that they would be showing The Pink Panther next month made me very excited. Will I be able to watch and enjoy it though, as Kato, like Oddjob in Goldfinger is bizarrely presented, and exploited by the white men in the film for the white men watching at home?
Should I enjoy this? Is it acceptable to seek to?
Films would be few and far between if we were to boycott all those which do not adhere to our moral and social values. Perhaps, as with literature, the best thing to do is still watch them, still, even, enjoy them, but to question what you see and recognise the structures that these films support. If you choose to look away you see nothing, and if you see nothing you know nothing. Knowledge is power, and just as we will not be pushed out of the “men’s talk” as by the pool in Miami, we will not deprive ourselves of culture and enjoyment, just try to see the cost at which they come.