From Russia with Lust
From Russia with Love is part of a lineage of movie titles featuring lovingly handcrafted notes from one person to another. Think To Wong Foo…Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar or Bullet to the Head. The mysterious title text "From Russia with Love" makes us ask two things: 1. Who/what is coming from Russia? 2. Is the love genuine or ironic? (And 3. Why remove the comma from Ian Fleming's original novel title?)
To answer question #1, we don't need to look any further than the photograph of Tania that M gives to Bond. She's from Russia. Problem solved.
Weirdly, it's Bond who writes "From Russia, with Love" on Tania's photo. It's a phrase Bond must have heard when the song came on the radio earlier, while he was canoodling with Sylvia. But why write it on this photograph? Does he plan to forge her signature and sell it at a shady counterfeit celebrity autograph kiosk?
As for the "love" part, like most things involving matters of the heart, this one gets a little more complicated. Here's how Klebb pitches the mission to Tania:
KLEBB: Come, come, my dear. You're very fortunate to have been chosen for such a simple, delightful duty. A real labor of love, as we say.
Tania's job is to fall in "love" with Bond, and his job is to do the same with her. However, when Bond spies her through a secret periscope, he says,
BOND: Well, from this angle, things are shaping up nicely. I'd like to see her in the flesh.
We're led to believe that the two fall for one another at first sight. But that's more like From Russia with Lust than with love.
At the end of the movie, the title song plays again while the two kiss in a Venetian gondola. "From Russia with Love, I fly to you…" Maybe it's love after all? At least until Bond spies another pretty lady from, well, anywhere on the planet.