Monday, October 13, 2008

OSS 117: Grade C

OSS 117 (2008)
Jean Dujardin, Bernice Bejo. Director Michel Hazanavicius. (French, subtitled)

I appreciate French culture and I can see how this movie would be hilarious to a French audience, but for me, it was a not-so-funny spoof of 1950’s spy movies, as made by Hitchcock, for example, starring Cary Grant. It has the suave, debonair, Bond-like spy (Dujardin) who drives an exotic sports car while fake scenery flows past. Seated beside him is the exotic woman in a silk head scarf (Bejo). He is a French secret agent sent to Cairo to find out who stole a big arms shipment. His cover is to run a poultry company because, as we know, chickens are universally funny. What probably tickles the French audience is the spy’s Clouseau-like clumsiness and incompetence, and especially his social and cultural faux-pas. He evaluates a Muslim religious practice with the comment, “Hmm. What a strange religion. It will never last.” He beats up a muezzin for making a racket at dawn when he is trying to sleep, thinking the poor fellow is just a local rowdy. Toward the end, the movie abandons sophisticated cultural humor and goes for a bizarre showdown with a Nazi organization holed up under a pyramid. The film is a competent spoof, playfully acted and moderately funny, but I think it works better if you are French.

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