30 Sept 2012

Mi6 HQ / Barbican centre and 50 years of Bond

London will always be London. When you take the subway from Heathrow (British Airways Terminal 5) and comes up at Piccadilly, you realize that London probably is the best city in the world. My last trip took me there for the obvious reason of visiting 'Designing 007 - 50 years of Bond style' at Barbican center. What could be more convenient than a location around the corner.
In Quantum of Solace, M and Tanner are walking out from what is supposed to be the Mi6 headquarters in the film. A little strange since the real secret intelligence hq at Vauxhall Cross had been used as Mi6 during the Brosnan era. The supposedly new Mi6 headquarters are in fact located on top of the Barbican Arts and Conference center and the house is known as the Barbican Frobisher Crescent.
Why this building was used is unknown but then again, Quantum did not deliver many rights and since Gassner was the new production designer (and a very poor one at that) there were evidently no reason to keep anything that was good from the previous films. Gassner has a chance to redeem himself in SkyFall and it seems he will do a better job this time. Furthermore, Mi6 will once again be located at Vauxhall bridge, as seen in the trailers. Just like in The World is not enough the building will once more become the victim of an attack.

"-She wants to know about Slate.
      -Tell her Slate was a dead end!"
 -Tanner and Bond-

M and Tanner are walking in the arcade that runs below the house, on the left hand side. They are coming out in the big opening in the middle of the Crescent (picture to the lower left) and the white blocks on the opposite side of the crescent can be seen behind M in the last scene. 

Overall Quantum struggles with so many problems that it qualifies in the bottom three list but it would be a waste of time to discuss it further here. Sometimes you can forget the past... Instead we are looking forward to the SkyFall premier next month. The latest trailer reveals that we are getting back M's classic office with the padded doors, something that actually was revealed already at the exhibition. M's padded door was on display along with a desk and Mi6 props from SkyFall.

Below are just a few of the things that were on display during the exhibition in London. Listing all the props, outfits and information would take too long, so enjoy the pictures.

Overall the exhibition was elaborately planned and very well designed. One problem was the number of tourists in the first two exhibition halls, but everything got better once you entered into the "casino area", where a number of evening suits, jewelry, playing cards, chips and dresses were on display.

The exhibition closed down in London on Sept 6 and is now going on a world tour. 

16 Sept 2012

Property of a lady - Sotheby's auctions

When agent 009 turns up dead in East Germany with a fake Fabergé egg i his hand, Bond is called in to track down the murderer. The real egg is being auctioned at Sotheby's that afternoon and Bond is keeping an eye out for the seller at the auction, trying to find some leads. After a bidding race against Kamal Kahn, Bond bumps up the price to £500.000 and forces Kamal to buy. The action, and brilliant music by John Barry continues outside of Sotheby's. The auction house is suitably located at New Bond street, no. 34-35. 

Since this is England, you can rest assured that not much has been changed since the film was shot here almost 30 years ago. The main thing different of course being that the entrance has moved to the center of the building, with two big windows on either side. 'The Bond street kiosk' where 007 picks up a magazine has also disappeared. Most likely that was put up for the film, but a magazine shop with the same name can be found at the Bond Street underground station just a few minutes away.

Being a fashionable shopping street ever since the 18th century, Bond street is evidently one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world. 

"-425', new bidder!
-Have you gone mad?
-Let's see how badly he wants it..."
Bond gives a signal to Smithers who tails Kamal to Heathrow in a London taxi. In the background the Polo Ralph Lauren shop is visible. You can still find the shop in the same building today, surrounded by other luxury shops along the street. Kamal is driven to Heathrow in a Mercedes Benz 600 Pullman, the car of choice for a true villain. Even though Kamal rides in the Pullman version, the Mercedes Benz 600 has been used by Blofeld in both Diamonds are forever and On Her Majesty's secret service.
Just below Sotheby's, to the left on Bond street, you can find Conduit street. This was the location where the famous Bond tailors Anthony Sinclair and Cyril Caslte, who made the suits for Sean Connery and Sir Roger respectively, had their shops. When walking down on Bond street, you should turn left in to Burlington gardens and take a walk down Burlington Arcade where you can find the vintage Rolex store at 'The Vintage Watch Company'. They have an unparalleled collection of vintage Rolex watches if you want to do some window shopping for a 1962 James Bond Rolex Submariner. 

"-You could have been stuck with it!
-I doubt it, he had to buy..."
-Bond and Fanning-

4 Sept 2012

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild / Palmyra - part 1

In Never say never again Bond is taken to Largo's home in North Africa, Palmyra. The exterior shots pictures Palmyra like some kind of fort, but the interior scenes were filmed at one of the most beautiful buildings on the Côte d'Azur, namely Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at Saint-Cap-Ferrat. It was constructed between 1905 and 1912 by the Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild who was a part of the Rothschild banking family of France. The villa is situated on the narrowest part of the Saint-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, overlooking the Mediterranean on both sides.

Largo enters with Bond and Domino only to have Bond captured and imprisoned. After a quick dialogue with Domino she is taken away and put up for sale in the courtyard, a very stupid scene. This courtyard and exterior of Palmyra was filmed at the citadelle in the center of Villefranche-sur-mer, which is only a few kilometers away.

                     "Bond, the game is over!"  

The Baroness definitively chose one of the best sites on the Riviera for her house and among her other accomplishments is the commission of the Rothschild Fabergé egg in 1902. The villa is surrounded by nine gardens, all with a different theme, for instance a Japanese, a French, a Spanish and a rose garden. The entire estate was registered as a historical monument in 1996. Also the rooms in the house have a different theme and the villa holds along with art and exceptional furniture the Baroness' own extensive collection of French porcelain.   
Unfortunately they were preparing an opera at the time of my visit so the main hall was filled with chairs and spotlights. Even though this is probably the least interesting Bond location on the entire Riviera, the villa is beautiful and the theme gardens are magnificent by themselves and well worth a visit, even if you are not normally into flowers.
The house can also be seen in the last part of the mini-series "If tomorrow comes" by Sidney Sheldon, starring Tom Berenger, Madolyn Smith and Liam Neeson from 1986. It is then called 'Villa di Nantegna' and is the subject of a break in and the theft of a Da Vinci.

 "It holds Béatrice's collection of French porcelain, considered to be the richest in France, if not the World."

Visit the foundation's website to find out about events and opening hours.