F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 13, 2012)

13 01 2012

If you’ve been wowed by “The Artist,” no doubt you wondered where the dream team of writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, actor Jean Dujardin, and actress Bérénice Bejo came from … and maybe you even wondered where you could get more.  Well, thankfully for the Americans who are discovering their abundant charm, the three of them have teamed up before in “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  As a parody of James Bond and other entries into the super-spy genre, it’s a spot-on tongue-in-cheek take to remember.

Dujardin, often said to be the French equivalent of George Clooney, stars as Hubert Bonissieur de la Bath – code name OSS 117.  In 1955, he’s sent to investigate the death of fellow agent and close (perhaps too close) friend Jack in Cairo, where he stumbles into a web of international espionage involving Egyptians, British, Russians, and Nazis with a very personal score to settle.  He also has to deal with women fawning all over him, including his femme fatale escort Larmina El Akmar Betouche, played with charm by Bejo.  Together, and at times separately, they work to get to the bottom of Jack’s murder with intrigue and hilarity following them always.

Hazanavicius is an incredibly astute observer of style, and much like “The Artist” felt like a movie straight out of the 1920s, “OSS 117” feels like pure 1960s campy fun.  The difference is in the approach – while the early Bond movies were cool but unconsciously a little corny, this movie is unabashedly and fully intentional in their ridiculousness.  OSS 117 is an outrageous character, as clumsy and bumbling as he is suave.  He spends more time insulting Larmina’s culture and customs than he does wooing her, yet she’s totally seduced nonetheless.  Hazanavicius toys with our preconceived notions of the genre in such clever and crafty ways, subverting them so effectively and often that I doubt I’ll ever watch a Bond movie in the same way.

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