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Fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave likes to describe the style of the James Bond movies as “slightly ahead of contemporary.” It’s that cool Britannia look defined by a suave secret agent in a bespoke tuxedo always accompanied by improbable technology and beautiful women. At the North American premiere of the exhibition Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style, Cosgrave said the show she curated with costume designer Lindy Hemming for London’s Barbican Centre was intended to capture that look rather than trade on Bond nostalgia. Perhaps that is why it can be so hard in the show, now awkwardly shoehorned into the TIFF Bell Lightbox, to figure out what is a real prop or costume and what is a contemporary reproduction of some long-since discarded bit of moviemaking. Tiffany Case’s white trouser suit from Diamonds are Forever is the original 1970s costume; the golden body on the round bed from Goldfinger is pure re-creation. Design fiends may appreciate the arch crafting of an exhibit that invites viewers to walk through the iconic gun barrel of the title credits to enter the show. Kids may like the loudly playing video clips from the 23 Bond movies, but Bond nerds are going to wish for more silence and more space so they can really concentrate on the iconic items tucked away behind glass. There are set designer Ken Adam’s original sketches for Goldfinger’s Fort Knox. There’s the briefcase that Sean Connery carried on the Orient Express in From Russia with Love. When it comes to disposable pop culture, what’s wrong with a little nostalgia?

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“Q’s bag of tricks,” a briefcase that includes a laser camera and a bomb detonator disguised as a cigarette package, along with standard shaving kit, is an original prop from the 1989 movie Licence to Kill starring Timothy Dalton.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

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A display of James Bond movie props includes the various special attaché cases full of explosive devices created for the secret agent by the ingenious Q. The closed case on right appeared in From Russia with Love in 1963; the open one in the centre is from 1989’s Licence to Kill.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

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The gold cigarette lighter that transforms into a gun for Roger Moore’s James Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) was designed by Peter Lamont and manufactured by Colibri, the maker of luxury cigarette lighters. This is the only remaining example of the prop; three others used in the film were stolen.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

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The exhibit Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style recreates the scene from Goldfinger where Jill Masterson (played by the British actress Shirley Eaton) appears coated in the gold paint that will asphyxiate her. The effect from the 1964 movie was achieved with gold cream applied by makeup artist Paul Rabiger during two 45-minute sessions.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

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For her role as May Day in the 1985 Bond movie A View to a Kill, actress Grace Jones brought along Paris fashion designer Azzedine Alaia who worked with costume designer Emma Porteous to create this dress.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

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Q’s many ingeniously retrofitted gadgets included the piton gun which Bond used in the 1964 movie Goldfinger. It fires a mountaineering piton to assist in climbing.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

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This white dinner jacket is the original costume worn by Roger Moore in the 1983 movie Octopussy; the blue Nehru jacket was worn by actor Louis Jourdan in the role of the charming but villainous Afghan prince Kamal Khan. The images of Fabergé eggs in the background are designer’s sketches for props from the same movie.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

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