I am interviewing The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius on Monday morning and in preparation I watched his two previous films OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio and wow, I had a lot of fun with these…
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies & Lost in Rio
As a director Michel Hazanavicius has four feature films to his name. At the moment all the attention is on his Oscar contending silent film The Artist, which is currently making a strong bid to win Best Picture at this year’s Oscars and will likely rack up nominations, if not wins, in several other categories. However, before The Artist, Hazanavicius directed a pair of successful James Bond spy spoofs (which are also satirical continuations of the original OSS 117 films from the 50s and 60s) beginning with OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, followed by OSS 117: Lost in Rio. The two films grossed around $53 million internationally, but never made much of a splash stateside and I hadn’t seen either of them until now.
The first of the two films is OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) which stars Jean Dujardin as lead character, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath (aka OSS 117) as he’s on a mission in Cairo investigating the death of a fellow OSS agent. While there he teams with Larmina El Akmar Betouche played by Berenice Bejo. And if you didn’t know already, Bejo and Dujardin are the two stars of The Artist.
In the sequel, OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009), the setting moves from 1955 Cairo to 1967 Rio as OSS 117 is investigating a Nazi who’s carrying a list of French Nazi sympathizers. While there is still a noticeable Bond-vibe to this film, I felt it had more of a North by Northwest feel to it, particularly in the final act which concludes on the arm of the Christ the Redeemer statue. You could even draw comparisons to Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
As for what makes the films so funny, it begins with the deadpan humor with screenplays by Hazanavicius and Jean-Francois Halin combined with Dujardin’s performance as Hubert who can best be described as a misogynist, ignorant racist, incompetent international spy. Oh, and he might be gay, a small fact that plays a rather hilarious role in both films.
In an attempt to give you some kind of idea on how deadpan the humor really is, here are my two favorite quotes from the two films, the first is from Lost in Rio, the other from Cairo:
Which Chinese worked with the Nazis?
The Japanese, exactly. My mistake. I had a vague theory. Chinamen from China don’t fit into it.
Larmina El Akmar Betouche
If he hadn’t played paddle ball, he’d have led the revolution.
Aside from the writing and Dujardin’s performance as well as several of his co-stars, the direction, set design, costumes, cinematography and score simply nail the period vibe for each film. Unfortunately all I have to offer you in an attempt to convince you to watch these films are the trailers as any clips I found on YouTube didn’t include subtitles.
That said, the first trailer is awful while the second one gives you a slightly better insight into the character, but neither really get across how funny these films actually are.
Oh, and on a side note, I wouldn’t compare either film to Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English. These films rely more on a wry wit while the Johnny English films are more slapstick, fall down humor.
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
I have finally seen Girl, Interrupted. It had been on my list of movies “to see” forever and I even think I rented it from Netflix at one point and for whatever reason never ended up watching it and sent it back. So if you’re wondering why it took me so long… it just did, but I’m glad I finally had a chance to see it.
As I’m sure you’re all aware, this is the film that won Angelina Jolie her Oscar in an interesting year for Supporting Actress nominees, which also included Toni Collette for The Sixth Sense. Jolie’s performance is good here, but I have to admit, watching her in this film for the first time after seeing her in a countless number of films as well as being fully aware of the Jolie celebrity persona, I don’t think I am judging it on the same scale as everyone else was in ’99. I will, however, say Ryder has her ups and downs here and I was not a fan of the voice over during the film’s finale… totally unnecessary, but my complaints pretty much end there.
It was interesting to see Brittany Murphy on screen again as this is the first time I’ve watched her in anything since her untimely death and I had no idea Elisabeth Moss was in this as I wasn’t aware of her as an actress until she played Bartlet’s daughter on “The West Wing” and now she’s a Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actress for “Mad Men”.
It’s also fascinating to look back at director James Mangold’s path since making Girl, Interrupted as he has definitely varied the kinds of films he’s made from this to the Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan time travel, romantic dramedy Kate & Leopold, to the quality thriller Identity, the Oscar-winning Johnny Cash pic Walk the Line, the 3:10 to Yuma remake, the Tom Cruise actioner Knight and Day and now he’s prepping the Wolverine sequel. That’s a varied career and a respectable one at that.
And now, my favorite scene from the entire film. Brittany Murphy at the end of this scene had me rolling! Oh, and it’s not safe for work.
Sorry, I wrote so much this week, let’s move on to you. What did you watch?