Film review: My Name Is Modesty

25 August 2006


The DVD case says "Quentin Tarantino presents" in big letters on the front. Miramax owned the film rights on Modesty Blaise, and needed to make a film or those would lapse; Tarantino is a long-time Modesty Blaise fan, and he facilitated this production rather than allow someone who didn't care about the character to get his or her hands on it. The actual director is Scott Spiegel, another fan, who was drafted in at the last moment over the head of a Romanian director who was quietly getting on with making a very low-budget movie.

The budget probably wouldn't have paid for the Star's make-up on the 1966 (god-awful) Modesty-film attempt. Luckily this film doesn't have a Star in the title role: it has a Virtual Unknown who knows how to act, and whom one feels after the first few minutes may have bothered to read some of the Modesty Blaise books when she took on the part. It helps that she looks rather the way the character was drawn for the newspaper strips, that given the right face for the part she is able to use that face to convey feeling, that she knows how to move well, and that although she says she had never before this film swung a punch in her life she took the trouble to learn the moves so that when she fights one believes she could win. Being an Unknown she wasn't coasting on a reputation, she was really working on playing this one part the very best she could, and it shows.

Because this project didn't have a shed-load of money thrown at it, it doesn't have a host of extras, nothing happens in a location that would have had to be hired at great expense, and the closest there is to a special effect is a building being blown up in close up (ie a concrete beam, some rubble and a lot of dust fall past the camera). What it does have is a script with a reasonable grasp of what people who've read the books will recognise as the spirit of O'Donnell's original creation, a small cast of actors who can act, a director who encourages them to do it, a camera crew who really know their business, and competent tech of all sorts. Nobody's ego was being pandered to in the making, and the money-men didn't have to be consulted at every turn, so these people have been able to go ahead and get on with the job of making the film.

The blurb on the DVD case made me fear the worst -- it contains five factual errors in fifty words, which might be some sort of record, but you don't have to read it... That's about the worst thing in the entire production. Three weeks of theirs, seventy-five minutes or so of mine, well spent, I'd say.