Tuesday, October 12, 2010

French Spy Films

One neat thing about Netflix is their recommendations for movies based on your previous rentals. For example, they might say "because you liked Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, we recommend Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (since all three had Humphrey Bogart). Of course, when you rent things as diverse as "Barbarian Queen" and "Gettysburg" you never know what sort of recommendation they'll send you--there's a lot of daylight between a cheap B-picture featuring scantily clad warrior women, and a film like Barbarian Queen. (Yes, I know the warrior women in "Gettysburg" weren't all that scantily clad)

Sometimes the recommendations are just weird--because you liked "Dr. Strangelove" and "Friday After Next", they recommend "Herbie Goes Bananas". But sometimes they strike right on the money--as when I was recommended to view a film called "OSS-117: Lost in Rio".

The OSS-117 films are, far as I can tell, a French series taking place in the '50s and '60s with a secret agent who's a bit of a spoof on Sean Connery's James Bond role. The protagonist is incredibly arrogant, bigoted, a dry-witted--much like Connery's Bond. His insensitivity to foreign religions and cultures, his love of France and whoever happened to be President of that country at the time, and his complete unawareness of things happening around him combine to make this secret agent enjoyable to watch.

Unlike most spoofs, "Lost in Rio" (and the other one I've seen, "Cairo, Nest of Spies") avoided pure pratfalls and retreads (as the Austin Powers series sadly fell victim to) and actually stuck to a plot with twists and cleverness. While not the most hilarious films I've ever seen, these are a delightful romp and worth the time to view them.

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