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Friday, December 29, 2006

Royale with cheese

Saw the new Bond movie (Casino Royale). It hit the right notes: great sets and scenery, exciting fights, sex and innuendo, a few hilariously cheesy lines and a plot that more or less makes sense: why can't Hollywood get this formula right more often?

(One refrigerator door question: when Bond enters his password, does he appear to hit keys that do not spell his secret word? This is doubly awkward because of an earlier dramatic moment that hinges on a keypad's requiring a ludicrously obvious text password.)

Was disappointed to see that the film used Texas Hold-'em in place of the book's Baccarat Chemin du Fer (a game I understand even less than Craps), which is Bond's signature game. Ironically, people say that the most detailed Bond film depiction of Baccarat came in the original 1967 Casino Royale film--a spoof of Bond movies starring Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and David Niven as three different Bonds, Orson Welles as the baddie Le Chiffre, as well as Deborah Kerr, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Ursula Andress.

My biggest complaint about the film is that they do not play up what makes Le Chiffre such an intriguing character. Fleming made him a survivor of Dachau--hence his name, which means "The Number"--and a genius at mathematics, chess and other cerebral matters. We do seem him calculate a number once, but its context is a cliche and it does little to define his character. Could we see him, for example, mentally triangulate the position of a bug, or of the position of a moving elevator or car? Or even see him observe a huge amount of information at the poker table? We do seem him recite a stock market figure that he knows well, but it would be more defining if he casually calculated complex interacting fluctuations.

It's also frustrating to see films so often inflate poker hand odds so that every other deal contains a full house. Perhaps the players, or the house, is cheating? If so, they'd be wise to remember that cheating at Baccarat can ruin lives and break up royal romantic affairs--just ask Edward VII.

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