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Fifty years of spies, stunts and killer girls at Paris Bond retrospective

© James Bond 007 l’exposition, photo | David Merle.

He’s Bond, James Bond. And if you’re a fan of the world’s longest-running and most successful film franchise then you’ll want to catch the "Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style" exhibition in Paris.


The retrospective spans five decades and takes visitors inside the world of Britain’s most famous spy.

More than this it reaffirms how music, fashion, technology, cars, art, travel and lifestyle have all been influenced by the iconic Bond character.

Debuting at the Barbican Centre, London back in 2012, the Paris exhibition includes 500 items of gadgets, costumes, storyboards and props, as well as exclusive items that have been added from the series' most recent film, "Spectre". In fact, an entire room captures the showstopping opening scenes from that latest Bond film, with the colour, noise and spectacle of Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade.

Even before entering the exhibition the unmistakable opening bars of John Barry’s legendary Bond theme score can be heard reverberating around the Grande Halle de la Villette venue in the capital's 19th arrondissement. Inside the exhibition's themed rooms, the series' famous theme songs are interplayed with scenes from various films displayed on large-scale screens.

Clearly this exhibition is about entertainment and not just a sneak peak behind the curtain of how the enduringly popular Bond films have been created.

At the entrance to the exhibition I'm struck by a heady mix of the 007 kind.

First, there's a DB5 Aston Martin, then through an archway wallpapered with images of some of the films’ most memorable characters, is a room where a semi-naked blonde lies face down, her gold-painted body outstretched on a rotating circular bed. This is the Goldfinger room.

The room based on the 1964 film holds some of the most eclectic props, costumes and sketches. Pussy Galore’s gold gillet and Shirley Bassey’s gold record from Capital records publicising one million sales of the title song are among them.

The Q Branch room, replete with the gadgetry and quirky inventions that have given Bond an edge over his villainous rivals, is likely to be a fan-favourite. Here you'll find model speed boats, planes, futuristic weaponry – namely guns from the 1970s film installments – and padded metal suitcases, along with some of the multi-purpose watches worn by Bond to disable his enemies. You’ll even find Q’s photo ID card and mug owned by the latest actor to portray him, Ben Whishaw.

But perhaps one of the biggest highlights is the casino room with its wall-to-wall mirrors and opulent chandeliers. Here the card table from the 2006 film "Casino Royale" sits centre stage, and a collection of tuxedos worn by various Bond actors can be found along with lavish evening gowns fashioned by some of most renowned designers. Other items include Bond’s martini glass and a Swarovski-designed Fabergé egg.

The villains and enigmas room showcases a labyrinth-style area where viewers can wend their way round large scale photographs of Bond’s best sidekicks – most of whom took on Bond and lost, including the 1970s villain Jaws. 

Bond's killer ladies

Occupying a space of their own are the bikinis and togs from the films, appearing in the area called Le Plage, with arguably the most recognisable belonging to Ursula Andress in "Dr No". A recent version of Andress's bikini was worn by Halle Berry in "Die Another Day". Not to be outdone by the women, you can also glimpse the blue swimwear worn by Daniel Craig in his first splash as Bond in "Casino Royale".

The villains and enigmas room is a reminder that some of the biggest names have starred as Bond girls. Many have used the role to launch their careers, such as Jane Seymour and Kim Bassinger.

Here you can see Monica Bellucci’s black lace corset, jewels designed by Dior and gowns by Versace, a nod to the glamour and class that defines the Bond franchise.

And while feminists might begrudge the recurrent narrative of the Bond girl as a victim in need of rescuing, fans have happily turned a blind eye to what has sometimes  passed as sexist stereotyping. 

In later films, some effort has been made to redress gender stereotypes, with the roles played by women reflecting a more independent spirit and grit. Defying the gender stereotypes are the femme fatales.

Some of the most memorable have been androgynous singer Grace Jones, who cut a striking and menacing figure in a hooded Azzedine Alaia outfit when she was cast as May Day in "A View to a Kill", and Madonna who played a fencing instructor clad in a bondage-style corset in "Die Another Day". Both costumes and designers' sketches can be seen in the exhibition.

The story behind the story of Bond is also explored, with biographical details about author and Bond creator Ian Fleming.

The exhibition Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style opens at the Grande Halle De La Villette, Paris from Sunday 16 April until September 4, 2016.

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