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Review: ‘OSS 117: Lost in Rio’

French Spy Returns for Sequel

Above: Jean Dujardin and Louise Monot are fighting Nazis in Brazil in "OSS 117: Lost in Rio"

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Aired 5/20/10

Before Ian Fleming created James Bond, the French created OSS 117. The famous spy appeared in nearly 100 novels beginning in 1949. Now he appears in a new film called "OSS 117: Lost in Rio" (opening May 21 at Landmark's Ken Cinema). Listen to my review.

Before Ian Fleming created James Bond, the French created OSS 117. The famous spy appeared in nearly 100 novels beginning in 1949. Now he appears in a new film called "OSS 117: Lost in Rio" (opening May 21 at Landmark's Ken Cinema). Listen to my review.

Meet Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath...

Girls: Ooooh!

A.K.A. OSS 117. It's 1967, and the French spy is surrounded by a bevy of beautiful babes. But have no fear, he can handle dames as well as danger.

Such is the life of a secret agent. Filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius resurrected the famous French spy in a 2006 film called "Cairo, Nest of Spies." Now he sends the intrepid secret agent to South America for "Lost in Rio." This time he's after Nazis in possession of microfilm that could embarrass the French government.

The Nazi villains of "OSS 117: Lost in Rio"

Music Box Films

Above: The Nazi villains of "OSS 117: Lost in Rio"

OSS 117 was originally created as a serious character in a series of literary thrillers. But actor Jean Dujardin has re-imagined him as something of a cross between Sean Connery and Inspector Clouseau. At one point he explains that some people have adventures but he IS an adventure… at least in his own mind. And that's where most of the fun comes in.

The new OSS 117 films spoof the spy genre and the filmmaking techniques of the 1960s. The result is a parody more sophisticated than the Austin Powers films and with a distinctly French mix of politics and comedy.

Bill: Hubert, you are so French…

This time out de la Bath not only takes a ribbing for his audacious sexism but also for his blatant racism and anti-Semitism. He's also just an idiot and at one point he asks the concierge in Brazil where he can find the secret Nazi Club.

De la Bath may think he's charming, sophisticated, and witty but that's just because he's oblivious to the outside world and cannot see beyond French borders or his own haughty nose. De la Bath is an anachronism representing outdated ideas and beliefs. And just as his outmoded way of thinking is ridiculed, so too are the old school filmmaking devices such as rear screen projection and day for night shooting. The 1960s penchant for split screen is also turned into a running gag. The best being an LSD inspired orgy in which the participants are separated off into different boxes on the screen. When the image comes back together… well it's pretty embarrassing for our macho hero.

Jean Dujardin (center) and his bevy of beautiful babes.

Music Box Films

Above: Jean Dujardin (center) and his bevy of beautiful babes.

The film succeeds in large part to Dujardin. He wears an impossibly wide grin, fearlessly jumps into the most outlandish situations, and revels in a level of arrogant self-satisfaction that proves an absolute delight.. In addition to a savvy knack for mimicking and mocking the period film styles, "Lost in Rio" also knows how to dissect the spy genre for comic effect. At one point, OSS 117 is standing on a balcony when he's sprayed with gunfire… He runs for cover but then realizes he left his briefcase so he risks injury to go retrieve it. But then he realizes that he also forgot his jacket… and his cigarettes… so he keeps going back dodging a hail of bullets without so much as the slightest scratch. And then in one of the film's funniest gags, an injured De la Bath gingerly rises out of his hospital bed to chase a Nazi in a walker.

The music may sound fast and furious but the pursuer and the pursued are moving at a snail's pace down the hospital corridor. Writer-director Hazanivicious knows the genre well and he knows his film history too. He references Hitchcock, Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, and wrestling movies. We even get a riff on the Felix Leiter character from the Bond films with a CIA agent who speaks very bad French and is prone to dropping f-bombs.

Bill: Cut the crap Hubert!

Like its predecessor, "OSS 117: Lost in Rio" is paced a tad too slow and drags out its premise for a bit too long to be an unqualified hit. But it is a delightful and stylish diversion.

Companion viewing: "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies," "Our Mann Flint," "From Russia With Love," "Funeral in Berlin," "Saboteur"

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