Spy spoof sends bumbling agent on trail of Nazis in 1960s Brazil

Jean Dujardin Hubert plays bumbling French agent OSS 117.


Zany but fun, the spy spoof “OSS 117: Lost in Rio” teams a bumbling French James Bond with a beautiful female Mossad agent to hunt Nazis in 1960s Brazil.

The sequel to 2006’s “OSS 177: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” this new spy parody is set in 1967 and brings back super spy OSS 117, a smarmy, obnoxious French womanizer with a toothy smile and arched eyebrows. Think James Bond meets Inspector Clouseau.

The film perfectly parodies American spy thrillers of the period, not only by recreating the characters, fashions, sets and locales but also by using the same camera and editing techniques, including multiple split screens, and cheesy soundtrack music. The comedy is also peppered with ridiculous dialogue and references to Bond films, along with other American suspenses of the era, including Hitchcock films.

Smooth secret agent OSS 117, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (Jean Dujardin), is sent to Rio when French intelligence headquarters is instructed to send its “best agent” to ransom a microfilm from a Nazi officer, Von Zimmel (Rudiger Vogler), hiding out Brazil. The microfilm has a list of World War II French collaborators, and headquarters is desperate to get it back, although agent OSS 117 is sure the list cannot be very long. Meanwhile, Von Zimmel is now posing as a manager for a pair of wrestlers in masks – lucados – so he can still wear his uniform. Silly, no? It gets worse.

The French spy’s cover is as a journalist, writing a vaguely defined article on Brazil. Once in the country, the clueless egotistical spy (attired in a beige plaid suit, no less, as he strolls through the airport) heads straight for the hotel pool, to strut around in his Speedo before a bevy of admiring beauties who cannot take their eyes off him, just like in any Bond movie.

But soon our man in Rio is contacted by Stamen (Serge Hazanavicius) and Kutner (Laurent Capelluto), secret agents from Israel’s Mossad about the possibility of teaming with them on the mission. The deal is the French get the microfilm and they get the Nazi. When they introduce OSS 117 to the Mossad agent he will be working with — a beautiful young woman named Dolores (Louise Monot) — de la Bath of course assumes she is someone’s secretary.

There is a kind of something-to-offend-everyone aspect to the French spy, although some of the movie’s other humor is sarcastically clever.

Obnoxious, OSS 117 is prone to sexist, racist and anti-Semitic remarks, smilingly oblivious as he insults every nationality, even his own, while scolding others about being intolerant. He has never heard of the Mossad, of course, and engages in a round of strange jokes about Jewish humor, while mixing-up stereotypes about Arabs and Jews.

Searching for his Nazi, he heads straight for the German Embassy and asks for a list of Nazis hiding in South America. “We know you know where they all are,” he tells them. OSS 117 rebuffs help from a CIA agent, a slippery fellow nearly as obnoxious as he, telling him “we French don’t need any help from you Americans unless we are being invaded.”

Not surprisingly, the Mossad agent becomes the brains of the operation while OSS 117 spends his time admiring women and engaging in a series of sexual adventures, including an orgy while visiting a colony of hippies to find the Von Zimmel’s peacenik son Henrich (Alex Lutz). None of the story makes much sense, naturally, just a series of ambushes, double-crosses and action sequences with murky motivations. Though silly throughout, the film is still very entertaining and funny as it nails the ‘60s spy parody genre.

‘OSS 177: Lost in Rio’

Who: New Jewish Theatre

When: Opens Friday, June 11

Where: Landmark’s Tivoli Theater

More info: in French with English subtitles