You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice ★★★★

Even with a lot of uncomfortable appropriating and/or othering of Japanese and Chinese cultures, this is still remarkably one of the most entertaining James Bond movies. It doesn't have the tight fat-free genre precision of From Russia With Love, and Lewis Gilbert is no Terence Young, but I likely prefer it over the other Connery outings. Goldfinger and Thunderball gradually seep over into the ridiculous, but it's this movie where the transformation from something-resembling-reality spy vehicle (which you can only say about the first 2 Bond movies) into cartoon is complete, and I love the balance between the absurd shenanigans and the no-sell delivery of Sean Connery. Bond movies become so much more cartoonish in the 70s and 80s, but the problem with those is that Roger Moore behaves like a cartoon character himself. Who Framed Roger Rabbit works so well because of Bob Hoskins, a flesh-and-blood man surrounded by animated nonsense but playing it straight. If Hoskins acted as silly as Christopher Lloyd, there'd be no charm. Five movies in and Connery seems a little bored here, but I think it works to the movie's advantage. I adore Donald Pleasence as Blofeld, the best of the scenery chewing Bond villain performances (at least of the early decades when the villains were never fleshed out characters but simply archetypes). I adore the special effects and particularly the use of miniature and composites, which I believe were influenced by Eiji Tsuburaya's work on the early '60s Godzilla movies. Bond girl Akiko Wakabayashi had been in a couple of these Godzilla movies, and this movie was made in part by help from Toho, so there are several links connecting the '60s kaiju boom and Godzilla's international pop culture breatkthrough to You Only Live Twice. The volcano lair is a work of movie architectural perfection, and the entire final act set within it is maybe my favourite stretch in any 007 movie outside of the Orient Express section of From Russia With Love. The DP here is Freddie Young who worked on Lawrence of Arabia, so naturally it's lovely to look at. The slower portions in the film of James making his way across various Japanese locations could have been a slog under a lesser DP, but he photographs the locations beautifully.