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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is a French film that lovingly parodies the 1960’s Sean Connery era James Bond films.  It got very little play here in the U.S., but if you’re a fan of the Connery Bond films then this movie is not to be missed.

OSS 117 actually began as a serious series of spy novels and films in the 1950’s (predating Ian Fleming’s secret agent by several years).  However, Cairo, Nest of Spies is anything but serious.  Now, this film isn’t total insane lunacy like the Austin Powers films.  Rather, this film represents a gentler form of parody.  In many respects, the filmmakers have lovingly recreated the world of 1960’s James Bond — through the sets, the costumes, the colors, the score, etc.  But when it comes to the story, everything is nudged several directions towards the silly.

Jean Dujardin stars as the titular OSS 117, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath.  He’s a well-dressed, highly-trained secret agent, able of besting a skilled foe in hand-to-hand combat and wooing any lovely lady he sets his sights on.  Sound familiar?  But he’s also rather dim, ludicrously devoted to France’s president, and totally condescending to any culture and religion that is not French.  Dujardin is a riot, and the film succeeds primarily because he’s able to walk the tightrope between being an imbecile, but a lovable one.  He’s able to handle witty reparte as well as broad physical humor (the pose he strikes any time he fires his weapon made me laugh every time).

It can be challenging for a comedic film to work even when watched with subtitles, but despite that I still found Cairo, Nest of Spies to be very, very funny.  I’m sure there were a few jokes that would have worked better if I spoke fluent French, but not many.  It helps that many of the film’s best gags are visual ones.  My favorite moment: a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag about OSS 117’s bed-hair when he wakes up in his suite about mid-way through the film. (Though I will comment that I was disappointed that there were several spelling mistakes in the subtitles.  That’s unfortunately amateurish.)

This is an obscure film, but for a Bond nut like myself I am so glad to have seen it.  To any fellow Bond-fanatics out there, I highly recommend you track this down.  (And luckily, a sequel has already been made — OSS 117: Lost in Rio.  It hasn’t been released yet here in the States, but I eagerly await its arrival…)

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