The Man In The Boat (Mature Audiences Only)

WARNING: This article contains adult subject matter and may not be suitable for all readers. Discretion is advised.

During the 1950`s French film critics – auteurists – elevated Alfred Hitchcock from the level of a mere entertainer to an intellectual filmmaker. They spent countless hours dissecting his films, debating the symbolism. The Bond films themselves contain hidden subtext, yet this aspect of Bond is rarely discussed or examined. The same can and should be done with the Bond films. Let`s face it: there`s isn`t a whole lot left to get out of a Bond film once you`ve sat through it 500, 600, or 700 times.

I don`t think the writers intended these hidden meanings, nor do I think that the film was trying to say anything. The points are just a measure of how cohesive and deeply woven A View To A Kill is. It`s an unusually rich Bond film, much deeper and intellectual than commonly thought. At the very least, you`ll never the see the film in the same light again…

The insect motif makes the brilliant Eiffel Tower set piece internally cohesive. Bond`s quip, “There`s a fly in his soup,” is logical and necessary. Aubergine asks, “Perhaps we should add this butterfly to our collection, non?” Fly-casting kills him moments later. May Day looks vaguely like a cricket or a grasshopper with the fishing rod. On the Eiffel Tower, Bond`s legs get tied up in something resembling a spider`s web. May Day leaps off the Eiffel Tower like a spider. She discards her outer coating like a caterpillar; an earth-bound creature becoming airborne like a butterfly, which is where we started, and her parachute has the same colours as a bumble-bee (and the lethal butterfly that killed Aubergine – he was “stung”).

The Ascot scene questions May Day`s gender. Her physical strength suggests a man. “Who`s there with him under the hat, in the red dress?” Which is perfect, realistic dialogue, and could have been improvised. M replies, “We`re not sure about her” which is a psycho-sexual comment. Notice though that Bond doesn`t say, “Who`s the woman?” During the “Butterfly” routine, May Day and the other black-sheathed figure handle the fishing rod like a male appendage. (It may or may not be appropriate that when she throws her rod at him, Bond is hunched over and takes it in the rear.)

Conley tells Zorin: “But May Day and my men! […] Those men are loyal to you.” This can be read two different ways. One: that May Day is a man, hence “those men” and not “those people”. Two: that May Day isn`t loyal, foreshadowing what soon happens. (The horse race also foreshadows Zorin`s willingness to hurt his own men to further his personal aims.) Zorin tries smooching with her, but it goes nowhere. May Day`s sobs over Jenny`s corpse have distinct sexual overtones – May Day also tears off some of Stacey`s clothes in the mine sequence. A sub-plot emphasizes genetic experiments, a parallel to Q`s computerized pet snooper (and even the tape recorder of Bond`s snoozes). May Day struggles like a horse. The suggestion that both Pegasus and May Day take “Vitamins” suggests hormone supplements and Mortner`s experiments with women in the concentration camps. At one point Bond asks Aubergine, “Could he be using drugs?” (though actually referring to the horses) and the KGB agent calls Zorin a physiological freak. (The famous British WWII mathematician Alan Turing was forced to take hormones and inadvertantly grew breasts during the 1950`s.)

Grace Jones later said while shooting the scene in which she beds Bond that she dropped her robe and had on an “extension” (strap-on prosthetic; artificial penis; dildo), presumably to Roger Moore`s surprise. She mounts Bond (she`s frustrated from her incomplete mating with Zorin – a point that would have played better hadn`t the film been so rushed; I`ve no doubt the writers intended this when they wrote it). Zorin and Mortner examine the hidden laboratory and find the misplaced vial. Suspicion automatically falls on Bond – who is in bed with May Day – because it`s in the wrong hole. In a symbolically clever touch, notice how he grimaces after she gets on top. Zorin, who is also sexually ambiguous himself, is then eager to get Bond in his study first thing in the morning. Another sexual parallel has Zorin and May Day kissing while Bond sucks the tire valve.

There are further gender/identity ambiguities. During the pre-credit sequence Bond himself is emasculated if one treats his skis as phallic symbols – one ski is broken, and he eventually discards them both. Bond carries his pack like a purse over his shoulder after hopping on the skidoo, kicking away his one remaining ski. (I`ll leave it to the reader`s imagination to decide what the red smoke-gun and the red smoke represent.) Later, an aerial flays Bond`s crotch while he dangles from the dirigible. Only at the end does Bond once again emasculate another: Q`s pet snooper, its neck an obvious phallic symbol. Bond throws a towel at it, stopping its tumescence.

Just before Bond goes into Stacey`s house she opens the windows. Once inside, he approaches the washroom, yet she comes out of the closet with a shot-gun, emphasizing masculinity (“Come out real slow.”). Gun play in films often has homo-erotic subtext and the fight between Bond and Zorin`s men, and Bond`s gun having only rock-salt (Stacey`s gun, actually) is yet another sterility motif. Stacey`s cat is named “Pussy”, though in fact it`s male (“I have to feed him” says Stacey). At the film`s end, we see the bowl and just behind it a statue of a dog – and though it`s not immediately relevant, off to one side sits a hobby-horse – suggesting further gender/identity confusion.

Bond says he`s been known to dabble in the kitchen and cooks her a quiche but Real Men Don`t Eat Quiche, or so the book says (by subsequent Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, who co-wrote Pierce Brosnan`s first three Bond films). That night Bond tucks her in and sleeps in the chair – with, interestingly enough symbolically – both the cat and the gun in his lap. Taken figuratively, being both male and female, Bond doesn`t need a bedmate.

Tibbett`s name sounds similar to “tidbit” which is actually a sanitized version of “titbit”, meaning “a delicate or dainty morsel.” (In fact, Bond and Tibbett bicker like two old queens.) On the balcony, Bond says, “Well done, my good man.” Moore`s emphasis is on “good man”, like he`s rubbing it in, or something unsaid is hinted at, implying that Tibbett isn`t a man. “Do we have to keep this up when we`re alone?” “A successful cover becomes almost second nature.” (The symbolism of the two bald men whose hats get knocked off during the firetruck chase should be readily apparent and is relevant.) Tibbett even says, “I might just be able to squeeze you in Bond.”

Bond`s concern when he finds Tibbett dead is that of a lover. If you think I`m reading too much into this consider the scene where Bond tells Tibbett to get into town and call M before the two guards they knocked out identify them. Bond smacks Tibbett on the rear with his riding crop – one of the many horses-as-metaphors-for-humans motifs throughout the film. (Patrick Macnee also portrayed John Steed on the show The Avengers.) Bond confuses the stables with the servants` quarters where Tibbett will be staying. May Day struggles like a female horse during her interrupted encounter with Zorin, even trying to bite him. “It`s time for my morning ride, why don`t you try him out?” Zorin asks, inviting Bond to race horses, though carrying a sexual subtext. Zorin says, “Your mount, Mr. St. John Smythe,” out on the track, as the horse is led to Bond. “What`s his name?”

Bond, Zorin and Jenny Flex, quip about riding and mounts in a distinctly sexual manner. “I love an early morning ride.” “I`m happiest in the saddle.” Even the quip, “A little restless, but I got off eventually” applies equally to horse-riding. Zorin even says to Bond, “As I see it, you need a stallion for breeding.”

During the chateau reception, Mortner talks about selective breeding and Bond asks, “Are you talking about people or horses?” Mortner replies, “My principles apply equally to human beings.” Zorin mentions the 16th century Duke who believed he`d be reincarnated as a horse. Bond asks Stacey, “Are you buying or selling?” Though a sexually laden quip, she explains that she`s not interested in horses. Zorin`s cane, a phallic symbol, injects the horses with steroids.

Bond films frequently emphasize fertility motifs. The map of the San Andreas Fault looks vaguely like a woman`s crotch. The sandy area, once it`s covered in water, will eventually become fertile when the water clears.

Zorin plants a bomb deep in the “womb” of the “fault”, a slight against women`s nether regions (much has been written about women`s parts as being evil or a flaw). That beautiful shot of the ticking bomb against the sacks looks like an egg in an ovarian crevice. Bond skis down a crevice. He also gets caught in the oil rig`s valve path, sucking him back in; the Russian man is eventually sacrificed to it, “Dentata” – the toothed vagina (also an episode in John Pearson`s fictional Bond biography). The Russians try planting a bomb here; compare this to what Zorin does in the other womb symbol. Removing the ticking bomb from the cavern – the seed from the woman`s ovary – further bolsters the fertility/sterility symbolism. Chuck Lee explains that most of the mothers Mortner experimented with in the concentration camps aborted. Removing Zorin`s ticking bomb is in itself “an abortion”.

In a South Park episode, a certain part of a woman`s nether region is referred to as “the man in the boat”, and sure enough just outside the mine entrance… there`s a man in a boat. The watery onslaught is equally symbolic. Women get bloated with water and “balloon up”. Ask any woman, and she`ll tell you that`s how her insides feel when she`s menstruating. The sudden burst of water throughout the mine is, of course, metaphorical menstruation. The saying “Blood is thicker than water” explains why Zorin is loyal primarily to his father figure, Dr Mortner, and not his drowning men.

The earth-shattering explosion outside the mine invokes that sexual phrase about the earth moving. May Day goes out with a “bang”, unable to achieve real sexual satisfaction any other way. And Bond dangles off the dirigible`s mooring rope, an obvious feminine-hygiene string metaphor. Now that the “seed” has been removed from the “fault”, the metaphorical female can menstruate and therefore needs the tampon (dirigible). Remember the Persephone/Hades myth: the earth is only fertile the six months that the maiden (Stacey/Persephone) is above ground.

One final comment. Moneypenny cringes when Bond makes to throw her hat onto the hook. The hat is, of course, a feminine symbol because of its opening, and the hook… you can figure that out yourself. This is interesting given that Bond and Moneypenny`s relationship is never consummated. By whose wishes I wonder?

Not everything is sexual. Visual motifs appear throughout the film:

The film moves from down in the mine, to high up in the sky, an interesting visual contrast. May Day pulls Bond and the ticking bomb up, and moments later, Zorin pulls Bond up on the dirigible`s mooring ropes. (Earlier Bond had pulled Stacey up by a firehose – an obvious phallic symbol.)

Bond carries Stacey down the City Hall ladder and misses a step. Later, in the mine, climbing up the steps, a step breaks, Bond stumbles, and May Day hears. Bond offers to give Tibbett a hand and takes only the umbrella. Later, after knocking out the Zorin truck driver, Bond says, “Give me a hand” and Stacey takes the man`s hat.

Three-quarters of the way through the film (after the firetruck chase) Bond and Stacey stop the Zorin truck driver. “Where`s the fire” “On yer rear end.” Moments later, “Do you know what I`m sitting on?” “I`m trying not to think about it”, which would be a fire on her rear end. (Note that it says “50 lbs”. A nice joke at women`s expense since they often worry whether their behinds are too big.) Bond fires his gun at the rear-end of the woman skidding down the ski slope on her back during John Barry`s credit. The female skier has a fire underneath her, and during the screenwriters` credit, the woman fires the green neon gun at the departing female skier`s rear end.

The firetruck chase has especially interesting visual parallels. The two cop cars collide (“our fenders our locked”, which also has sexual implications), their fronts swinging wildly around, while the ladder at the back of the fire truck is unlocked. The sequence is further ingenious: the two cop cars become unlocked, one spins out of control, slamming into the fire truck and the ladder swings out of its berth, also unlocked. (Bond yelling for Stacey to swing him back this way and that resembles women giving men instructions in bed, moreover Stacey misunderstood what Bond meant when he said, “Here, put your hand on this, the wheel, the wheel.”)

During the Ascot scene, Bond`s quip “rags to riches” is perhaps an indirect slight against May Day`s clothing, which could be said to be the rags (next to Zorin`s riches). A horse is named Inferno; compare this to the shot of the elevator crashing down into the fiery inferno, and later still, that beautifully muted, raging inferno down in the mine as May Day pulls Bond and the ticking bomb up.

At the chateau, Bond has to run and jump at the drawbridge; later on, the cop car is in almost the exact opposite position on the elevated bridge.

Bond steeplechase races Zorin, and later, when he sneaks into Stacey`s house, Bond has to climb over the railing, then climb over the windowsill.

The preceding is only a finger-etching. I should probably give the reader time to get his jaw up off the ground or wipe the tears from his eyes, since there`s much here to contemplate. Though Freud, had he been a Bond fanatic, might have said, “Sometimes a ski chase is only a ski chase.”

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