Sunday, 4 December 2016

On location: James Bond in Paris


A weekend trip to Paris gave me the opportunity to check out some of the places associated with James Bond. The city features prominently in the film A View To A Kill (1985), but it also has a role in the short story on which the film is very vaguely based, 'From a View to a Kill' (1960). (The title and Paris location are about the only things in common between the story and the film.)

Working backwards through the events of the film, the first stop on my Bond itinerary was the Pont Alexandre III that spans the River Seine. James Bond jumps from this bridge on to a boat in pursuit of May Day, who has herself just landed on the vessel after parachuting from the Eiffel Tower. A boat very much like the one Bond encounters was passing underneath the bridge as I looked over the side, and though I wasn't tempted to emulate Bond, I did consider the practicalities of Bond's jump. Not as easy as it looks, I decided.

 
The Pont Alexandre III in A View To A Kill (top) and now
I then continued towards Quai Branly and walked down to the quayside. Having 'borrowed' a taxi, Bond speeds along the quayside and crashes through a barrier, which slices off the car's roof. Bond would find it more difficult to repeat the stunt today, as the barrier has gone and been replaced by a large metal gate. (The original barrier was present until fairly recently, up to at least 2008, according to Martijn Mulder and Dirk Kloosterboer in their essential book, On the Tracks of 007.)

 
Bond approaching a barrier on Quai Branly (top). The site today (bottom)
I stayed on the quayside and continued to the foot of the Pont d'Iéna. There's a flight of steps here that leads back up to street level. James Bond descends these steps rather unconventionally – in the stolen taxi.

 
The steps at Pont d'Iena in A View To A Kill (top) and today
At the top of the stairs, I was greeted by the magnificent sight of the Eiffel Tower. Bond's Parisian adventure starts here, as he chases after May Day, who has just killed Bond's contact, Monsieur Aubergine, and then makes a quick descent on the roof of the lift when May Day jumps off the top of the tower. Long queues prevented me from going up to the top, but even on the second floor, the view was fantastic, and I got a great sense of the excitement of the scene.

 
View of Quai Branly from the Eiffel Tower (some of which is replicated in the film's Paris poster)
The following day, I sought locations connected to the literary Bond. In the short story of 'From a View to a Kill', we learn that Paris has a significant place in James Bond's life – the city is where he lost his virginity. Bond has been a frequent visitor to the city ever since. Typically, he stays in the Terminus Nord hotel next to the Gare du Nord (he has a particular preference for station hotels). The hotel is still there, of course, and is now part of the Accor chain.

 
Terminus Nord, Bond's favourite Parisian hotel
When we first see Bond in the story, he's at Fouquet's, a famous bar and restaurant on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. He's ordered an Americano (you can't drink seriously in French cafés, he reflects) and is thinking about how Paris had changed since the war (for the worse, in his view). I found the restaurant – by George V Metro station – but it was a little too early for an Americano.

 
Fouquet's, Paris
Bond doesn't have much time for retrospection, though. Before too long, a car pulls up and Mary Ann Russell, a fellow Secret Service agent working for Station F, gets out, finds Bond, and tells him that he's wanted at the office (being a creature of habit, Bond is rather easy to find – probably not ideal for a secret agent). According to the story, the headquarters of the French station is nearby on Avenue Gabriel. Unfortunately, I didn't visit the street myself, but there's always next time.

For the James Bond fan on the look-out for Bond-related locations, Paris has a lot to offer. Not only can you visit some of the places seen on the screen and mentioned in the pages of Bond's adventures, but you can also experience something of the James Bond lifestyle by staying in the hotel Bond stays in or eating or drinking in Bond's favourite restaurants. Just don't go borrowing any taxis.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog, Edward, and good photos with the then and now.

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