SBS ONE schedule
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
OSS 117: Lost in Rio
France's entry in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is 'Echo (You and I)', performed by songstress Anggun. It's a bright electronic pop tune, complete with some first-rate whistling, and if you want more Gallic pleasure stick around after the second semi-final on Saturday night for a pair of equally appealing, also somewhat happily daft, French movies from the team that more recently brought you the Academy Award winning recreation of Hollywood's silent era, The Artist.
In his pair of OSS 117 movies – 2006's OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and the 2009 sequel OSS 117: Lost in Rio – co-writer and director Michel Hazanavacius, along with leading man Jean Dujardin, has great fun with the conventions of the spy film genre. As Mike Myers did with the early Austin Powers movies, but with more loving design and better pacing, the filmmakers sends up both the spy genre and the slick tributes that originated in the 1960s. In other words, Dean Martin songs and sharp suits are a go, with a healthy dose of early James Bond as well.
Jean Bruce wrote the original series of novels for the character OSS 117, that in turn inspired serious adaptations in the 1950s and 1960s, but these remakes have purely comic intent. Dujardin plays the French espionage agent, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, who tends to stumble his way through assignments as opposed to cracking them. Dujardin's Hubert is self-centered, vain, convinced he's a form of Parisian catnip to the opposite sex and righteously convinced that France is the greatest nation on Earth.
In Lost in Rio, which screens at 10.55pm, the secret agent is sent to Brazil, where he must recover microfilm that contains a list of French collaborators from World War II. “Of course it is on microfilm, the list must be tiny,” notes Hubert, whose patriotism allows Hazanavacius to poke fun at French history through a man who never sees the country's faults even at the end of the colonial era in 1967.
Cairo, Nest of Spies, which follows at 12.45am on the Sunday (like Hubert, these movies do their best work late at night), is set 12 years earlier, with Hubert in Egypt prior to the Suez crisis and passing out pictures of French politicians and ill-chosen gifts to local nationalists. Both films feature capable women who accomplish more than Hubert even as he condescendingly disregards them, and in this outing one of them is played by the leading lady from The Artist, Berenice Bejo. The pair, as audiences know, has great chemistry, and no cocktail party is safe with OSS 117 on the job. Anggun's song couldn't have better inspiration than this pair.