Monday, July 26, 2010

OSS 117: LOST IN RIO

I really loved director Michel Hazanavicius' first Eurospy spoof, OSS 117: CAIRO NEST OF SPIES, based on French author Jean Bruce's 91-book series of espionage novels starring secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, code named OSS 117, and the 60s films adapted from those novels. Now, the 2009 sequel, OSS 117: LOST IN RIO (a/k/a OSS 117: RIO DOES NOT RESPOND) is on the way, hitting U.S. shelves next month.

Whereas the first film was set in 1955, this one takes place in the swinging Sixties (1967, to be precise) and finds France's greatest - albeit casually racist, sexist and often oblivious - secret agent on his way to Rio de Janerio, where he is to pay off a Nazi war criminal-turned extortionist who holds a microfilm containing the names of French collaborators. On his arrival in the Brazilian paradise, he teams up with an attractive Israeli Mossad agent (the lovely Louise Monot) who wants to bring the Nazi to trial for his wartime crimes. After encounters with "free love" hippies, attacks by persistent (and seemingly unlimited) Chinese assassins, battles with masked luchadores, and a culinary disaster involving a stubborn crocodile, Hubert finally faces his destiny - and his enemy - atop the Christ statue at Corcovado.

While perhaps not quite as hysterical as its predecessor, LOST IN RIO is still funnier than almost any other comedy I've seen this year, with another brilliant performance from Jean Dujardin as the intrepid OSS 117. As in CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES, his character's thoughtless - and oddly innocent - bigotry separates him from similar characters like Maxwell Smart or Clouseau, but while his xenophobic attitudes are appalling, his obliviousness somehow excuses him. The way Dujardin plays him, he's not mean-spirited or hateful at all; he just doesn't know any better. At one point, he's advised to keep his opinions to himself, and he replies, "Why? I'm not upset."

The story is ludicrous, of course, and borrows heavily from various sources, including Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST and VERTIGO, the 1966 film KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE, which was also set in Rio, and the 1965 OSS 117 film, MISSION FOR A KILLER, among many others. But director Hazanavicius and co-writer Jean-Fran├žois Halin keep the action and politically incorrect gags coming at a rapid fire pace, and if a few misfire, there's another that hits the target a moment later.

The filmmakers' recreation of 1967 Rio de Janierio is astounding and utterly convincing. The bossa nova-flavored score by Ludovic Bource perfectly captures the sound of the era's spy films and is tinged with plenty of South American flavor; he even manages a nice Bernard Hermann homage during one Hitchcock-inspired action sequence. Overall, LOST IN RIO is a great spy spoof, almost as good as its predecessor, and I eagerly look forward to a third OSS 117 adventure.

Music Box films brings OSS 117: LOST IN RIO to Region 1 DVD with a sharp, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Dialogue is in French, with English subtitles provided. Extra features include a "Making Of" featurette, a gag reel, and deleted scenes.

For fans of 60s Eurospy adventures and espionage spoofs, the OSS 117 films are essential viewing. I think LOST IN RIO is just ever-so-slightly weaker than CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES, but it's still a smart, sly, and hilarious comedy that deftly recreates its period milieu. Highly recommended.

OSS 117: LOST IN RIO streets on August 31st.

BUY: Oss 117: Lost in Rio (Ws Sub)