Revisiting International Man of Mystery

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Exists very much as it was conceived, which is as a clear-sighted parodic imitation of the past. Interiors are either comically exotic or drab retrofuturist, Powers and Evil are fossils that shouldn’t make sense but do. By all means a more enjoyable watch than The Spy Who Shagged Me, that one erases that initial point of contact with the past such that it follows the weirdnesses of International Man of Mysteryas though they were new and novel ideas not generated through pastiche. This is of course because by the time of The Spy Who Shagged Me there could be no such thing as a parody as parody requires the awareness of an original. Tellingly International Man of Mystery reveals very few establishing or even exterior shots- it can only exist within the confines of the sets it mimics. In The Spy Who Shagged Me streets are revealed as a continuation of the dream, as though the dam burst in 1997 and so flooded the world without care for what was past or present, bootleg or original. This is because by the next film we are no longer talking about these as films about films, but as a condition. Again no claims can be made to quality in the follow up as a piece of entertainment- its delirium makes for a parade of second hand jokes faded and grotesque- but this only has it resonate more for the way it tracks retrograde symbols to disorder through political (and then cultural) compulsion- neoliberalism’s damaging but insipid ‘bland consensus’: International Man of Mystery draws it out and The Spy Who Shagged Me has it stop making sense.

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