Frank McCarthy's hyper-detailed Bond painting requires a second glance.
Every James Bond movie has been exhaustively pored over online, which makes them not particularly discussion worthy for our website. But we're making an exception for You Only Live Twice for two reasons. First, because of the promo painting above. It's an amazing visual masterpiece created by the realist painter Frank McCarthy, and it was used in various types of promos, tilted to the left, as you see in the example just below. Looking at the painting oriented correctly, we see that Bond is actually defying gravity, and if you look super close you'll see he's wearing a pair of slippers and is managing to hang on using his strangely prehensile toes. The canvas is filled with intricacy, and within the whole there are various secondary set pieces. We've isolated a few areas below so you can see what we mean.
The second reason we decided to talk about this movie is because it has amas in it. Yes, we just talked about amas a couple of weeks ago when we shared a poster for Woman Diver's Beach: Red Pants. But if you missed that, we're referring to female Japanese skin divers who forage in shallow waters for pearls and aquatic delicacies. The entire concept of the ama was obscure at best in Western culture until they appeared onscreen in You Only Live Twice. They first appear in the film briefly when Bond looks at a surveillance photo, but later he goes undercover as a Japanese man (we know, we know) and has to pretend to marry an ama named Kissy Suzuki. The character is played by Mie Hama, who we've featured a couple of times. See here and here. Oh, and You Only Live Twice had its world premiere in London today in 1967. That's the third reason we decided to talk about it.
Last one there is a rotten ama.
If you visit Pulp Intl. regularly you know that ama movies, which focus on the tradition of female free divers who scour bay bottoms for valuable items such as abalone, clams, and pearls, are very popular in Japan. The divers, who in the past traditionally worked topless, occupy a place in Japanese culture similar to that of rollerskating female carhops in U.S. culture. Both are unusual and physical forms of work with mildly sexual components (at least in the male mind), both are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler past, and both are widely appreciated by men even though most have never seen one outside a movie.
The ama tradition is ancient. The first written mention of them dates from the year 927, but ama artifacts have been found on the sea floor and carbon dated to suggest the practice is something like 3,000 years old. It's difficult to know when the tradition peaked, but according to most accounts that would have happened during the early- to mid-20th century. Movies on the subject began appearing frequently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, with the high water mark—ahem—of western interest occurring with the appearance of an ama (played by Mie Hama) in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
We've talked about eight different Japanese ama movies on Pulp Intl. over the years, including two earlier this month, so we thought you might be interested in seeing a few historical photos. We have a collection of fifteen above and below, shot between the 1940s and 1980s. Sadly, like so many interesting cultural practices, ama diving is in danger of fading away. Most pratictioners are in their forties and older, with very little likelihood of being succeeded by younger women, who have moved on to less traditional occupations. And people say civilization is making progress.
Follow the links below to read about the ama movies we've discussed, and to see their beautiful promotional posters.
Zoku kindan no suna Ama bune yori: Kindan no suna
Manatsu no joji
The object of Mie affection.
Above, Japanese actress Mie Hama, who was known to Western filmgoers as Kissy Suzuki from the 1968 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. This shot comes from the cover of the Yugoslav magazine Ilustrovana Politika.
Overnight to many distant cities.
Above are two lovely Japanese posters for the French film Les plus belles escroqueries du monde, aka The World’s Most Beautiful Swindlers. It’s an anthology divided into four segments shot by four directors—Claude Chabrol, Francis Ford Coppola, Hiromichi Horikawa, and Jean-Luc Godard. Not a slouch in the bunch, and the film, which is about crimes committed by four larcenous women in various cities across the globe, is said to be quite entertaining. We haven’t seen it yet, but when we do we’ll give you our opinion. In the meantime dig the art. Les plus belles escroqueries du monde opened in France today in 1964, and Japan in 1965.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl
Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
1962—Canada Has Last Execution
The last executions in Canada occur when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, both of whom are Americans who had been extradited north after committing separate murders in Canada, are hanged at Don Jail in Toronto. When Turpin is told that he and Lucas will probably be the last people hanged in Canada, he replies, “Some consolation.”
1964—Guevara Speaks at U.N.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, representing the nation of Cuba, speaks at the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. His speech calls for wholesale changes in policies between rich nations and poor ones, as well as five demands of the United States, none of which are met.
2008—Legendary Pin-Up Bettie Page Dies
After suffering a heart attack several days before, erotic model Bettie Page, who in the 1950s became known as the Queen of Pin-ups, dies when she is removed from life support machinery. Thanks to the unique style she displayed in thousands of photos
and film loops, Page is considered one of the most influential beauties who ever lived.
1935—Downtown Athletic Club Awards First Trophy
The Downtown Athletic Club in New York City awards its first trophy for athletic achievement to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. The prize is later renamed the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the most prestigious award in college athletics.
1968—Japan's Biggest Heist Occurs
300 million yen is stolen from four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo when a man dressed as a police officer blocks traffic due to a bomb threat, makes them exit their bank car while he checks it for a bomb, and then drives away in it. Under Japanese statute of limitations laws, the thief could come forward today with no repercussions, but nobody has ever taken credit for the crime.
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