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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

OSS 117: LE CAIRE, NID D’ESPIONS / OSS 117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES (2005)

The creative trio from THE ARTIST/’11, writer/director Michel Hazanavicius, his actress-wife Bérénice Bejo & Jean Dujardin, first worked together on this good-natured send-up of classic late-‘50s/early-‘60s Spy vs Spy pics. Think DR. NO meets PINK PANTHER with Dujardin supplying both Sean Connery mojo & Peter Sellers fatuousness, while Hazanavicius fields the old story tropes & filming techniques, falling a bit in love with them in the process. As THE ARTIST demonstrated, these two are quick learners in matters of period style, and Bejo shares equally in the fun as the foreign Girl Friday with a secret agenda. While the plot is probably more of a joke than it need be, OSS is also more than the sum of its silly parts, thanks to a consistent period look (and outlook) & pitch-perfect tone. It’s paradoxically accurate & goofy, respectful & iconoclastic fun; far more effective than similar attempts at reviving the genre forms in parody pics like the AUSTIN POWERS series, GET SMART or those godawful Steve Martin Pink Panther reboots. It gets under the surface with a swank compositional style & ‘swellegant’ slapstick timing that recalls the late Blake Edwards at his best. So, while there's a generous share of howlingly funny high points, the confident filmmaking makes the whole package a real pleasure to watch all along the way.

DOUBLE-BILL: A sequel, OSS 117: LOST IN RIO/’09, sounds like a tip of the hat to Phillipe de Broca/Jean-Paul Belmondo’s THAT MAN IN RIO/’64, but maybe one of the ‘straight’ adaptations of the OSS 117 books from the ‘50s & ‘60s will show up on DVD. (see poster)

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