BFI gives two James Bond films trigger warnings in a new season

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A season dedicated to composer John Barry, including two James Bond films, has received trigger warnings from the BFI. More here. 

The BFI has unveiled a new season celebrating the work of composer John Barry. Titled John Barry: Soundtracking Bond and Beyond, the season includes two Bond films, Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice as well as films such as Midnight Cowboy and The Ipcress File

The season has earned itself a trigger warning from the BFI, as reported by The Guardian. The blanket warning for all films reads: “Please note that many of these films contain language, images or other content that reflect views prevalent in its time, but will cause offence today (as they did then). The titles are included here for historical, cultural or aesthetic reasons and these views are in no way endorsed by the BFI or its partners.”

Programme notes for 1967’s You Only Live Twice also want audiences of “outdated racial stereotypes”. In the film, Sean Connery’s 007 agent tries to pass off as a Japanese man. 

Sean Connery You Only Live Twice
Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice. Credit: MGM

1964’s Goldfinger hasn’t aged particularly well either. In the film, Connery’s Bond forces himself on Pussy Galore despite her resistance, resulting in rape. Ian Fleming, the writer of the original novels, has defended this as Bond curing Pussy of her lesbianism. Lovely. 

BFI hasn’t included a separate warning for Goldfinger. The notes on the film only speak of the film’s “cartoonish sexiness”. 

Oddjob, the Korean henchman in Goldfinger, has also been the subject of controversy. The character, played by Harold Sakata, has a cleft palate and many have seen this as another film connecting disability with villainy. 

“As a cultural charity with responsibility for the preservation of film and moving image work and presenting it to audiences, we continuously face and deal with challenges presented by the history of film and television programmes and how they reflect views prevalent to their time,” the BFI told The Guardian in a statement about the new season and trigger warnings. 

Read more: James Bond | What’s taking so long to make the modern 007 movies?

“Whilst we have a responsibility to preserve films as close to their contemporaneous accuracy as possible, even where they contain language or depiction which we categorically reject, we also have a responsibility in how we present them to our audiences. The trigger warnings/content warnings that we provide in all of our exhibition spaces and online platforms act as guidance that a film or work reflects views of the time in which they were made and which may cause offence.

“We continuously review our processes around the presentation of film and moving image work to make improvements and support audience trust. We listen to customer feedback and also continue to work closely with the BBFC and their classifications to give appropriate guidance. This work is by its nature on-going.”

John Barry: Soundtracking Bond and Beyond is taking place at the BFI in February 2024. 

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