OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Music Box Films, NR)

The film yearns to make visual cinematic art and hypnotize the audience with its mise-en-scene.




The spy film is a genre that has had its fair share of parody. From In Like Flint to Austin Powers, the spy spoof has indeed morphed into a genre of its own.

The latest spy spoof to arrive on American shores is the funny and visually dazzling OSS 117: Lost in Rio. It is a sequel to 2006’s OSS 117: Cairo – Nest of Spies, which rebooted Jean Bruce’s OSS 117 series of novels (the first published four years before Casino Royale) and the subsequent series of films (the first released six years before Dr. No), from serious spy fiction into parody version of the French character.

Jean Dujardin returns as France’s top spy Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, the titular OSS 117. He walks with a swagger and radiates masculinity, yet is clueless and bumbling. Hubert is sent to Rio de Janeiro to pay ex-Nazi fugitive Professor Von Zimmel (Rudiger Vogler), earning 50,000 francs in exchange for a microfilm list of French Nazi collaborators during World War II. When Hubert arrives in Rio, he meets up with Delores Koulechov (Louise Monot), a sexy Mossad agent intent on bringing Von Zimmel back to Israel for a trial. Along the way, they come in contact with Von Zimmel’s hippie son, Heinrich (Alex Lutz), who agrees to help Hubert and Delores find the Nazi fugitive. Zany spy antics ensue.

There are plenty of hilarious non-sequiturs, recurring gags, and over-the-top action sequences throughout that keep the film entertaining. The funniest moments come from the banter between Hubert and Delores. He tries to be suave and debonair in his attempt to woo her, but he instead comes across misogynistic and insensitive.

Dujardin, who was nominated for the Cesar Award for Best Actor for Cairo – Nest of Spies, is a true comedic talent. His charisma and timing carry the film. What makes his performance work is his ability to play the character as straight as he can while maintaining a certain level of goofiness, placing a tongue in his cheek to go along with his smooth smile.

Returning to the helm is writer/director Michel Hazanavicious. He keeps everything light and fast-paced, and knows exactly how to subvert the conventions of the spy genre. Also returning are cinematographer Guillame Schiffmann and production designer Mamaar Ech-Cheikh, whose work on this film was nominated for a Cesar Award. Their combined talents successfully recreate the look and feel of a ’60s espionage film, from the sets and costumes, to the color and quality of the film. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing films in some time, and a true feast for the eyes.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio differs from other spy parodies in that, apart from providing laughs, it yearns to make visual cinematic art and hypnotize the audience with its mise-en-scene. Add Dujardin’s zany antics and Hazanavicious’ skillful command, and this is an adventure well worth the taking. | Justin Tucker

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