Monday, May 8, 2017

Now That Everybody Loves Comic Book Movies, Let’s Watch Modesty Blaise

Closer to Emma Peal than Imperator Furiosa, Modesty Blaise (1966) was a mid-century Lady James Bond movie based on a British mid-century comic strip and series of novels by Peter O’Donnell.  Starring Italian actor Monica Vitti, she certainly looked like the comic book heroine, but I can’t tell if these images were inspired by her performance or vice versa. 
In a cinematic style that can only be described as groovy baby, Modesty Blaise is an international jewel thief who is employed by Her Majesty’s Secret Service to protect a diamond shipment but the plot is barely relevant, it’s a surreal and confusing madcap caper that showcases Modesty’s Carnaby Street style and Pop Art sensibility.  The movie is a time capsule of the swinging sixties that is regrettably most remembered as the book Vincent Vega was reading in Butch Coolidge’s bathroom (which, when you think about it, makes it Butch’s book).
With Terrence Stamp as WIllie Garvin, Modesty’s knife happy mod partner in crime, and Dirk Bogarde as Gabriel, a rival international jewel thief who has his own private Greek island.
Jane Fonda’s Barbarella (1968) and Charlize Theron’s Aeon Flux (2005) both owe a stylistic debt to Modesty Blaise.  Monica Vitti was an Italian superstar in the 60’s, and is arguably most remembered for Antonioni’s L’Aventura (1960).  Modesty Blaise was one of her rare English language films.





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