search

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

French Comic Bumbles into International Intrigue, Romance

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
French secret agent OSS 117 (Jean Dujardin) stumbles into international espionage and exotic women in this hit spy-film parody by French director Michel Hazanavicius. This homage to the early James Bond series begins with the disappearance of a government agent and a Russian cargo ship Cairo in 1955, which ultra-suave OSS agent 117 is sent to investigate. Upon his discovery of an elaborate espionage plot involving factions of Egyptians, French, Russians, Neo-Nazis, and a Belgian, much hilarity ensues.

Review by Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
Do you wish that the Austin Powers movies were not, you know, quite so stupid? Or that their efforts to poke fun at the social mores and global politics of another age were pitched somewhere north of an eighth-grade sensibility? Let me direct you to the hit French comedy "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies," featuring explosively weird Gallic comic Jean Dujardin as its eponymous super-spy, an unhinged cross-Channel cousin of Sean Connery's 007. (In his original, more straight-faced incarnation, OSS 117 was the hero of more than 250 French pulp novels and several 1950s and '60s films.)

Director Michel Hazanavicius captures the jet-age atmosphere, form-fitting wardrobes, jazz-ethnic soundtrack and bouffant hairdos of JFK/de Gaulle-era espionage films in perfect detail, but it's Dujardin's performance as the suave, confident and utterly clueless Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (to Francophones, a name that drips with phony aristocratic pretension) that gives "OSS 117" its edge. From certain angles, our secret-agent hero is every inch the Connery-esque ladykiller, irresistible to wicked Arab princesses and comely, chaste secretaries alike. But then there's his exaggerated widow's peak, ludicrously arched eyebrows -- and the alarmingly loud, braying, donkey laugh he emits with almost no provocation.

Given that this is a French film, there's an unmistakable edge to its satirical portrayal of postwar East-West relations. Bonisseur de la Bath is constantly praised by his pipe-smoking, veal-stew-eating Parisian superiors for his understanding of the Muslim world, the same understanding that leads him to ask his Arab female assistant, "What kind of stupid religion would forbid alcohol?" While smoking a hookah with a Cairo government minister, he tells the man in friendly fashion, "It's 1955! You've got donkeys in the streets, men wearing jellabas, writing nobody can read. Time to grow up!" Finally, OSS 117 single-handedly incites an Islamic uprising by beating up the rude stranger who wakes him by yelling from a nearby tower (i.e., the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer).

Still, this patronizing simpleton who suffers from a suspiciously strong case of homophobia -- perhaps linked to his tender memories of beach horseplay with a British spy whose disappearance he's investigating -- can't be stopped, not by the fundamentalist Muslim underground or the Nazi renegades beneath the Great Pyramid or the poultry industry of Cairo or the adoring throngs who celebrate his surprising prowess on the oud in a cocktail-lounge combo. The pride of the French secret service will clean up the incomprehensible, interlocking "nid d'espions" that is Cairo and surely, as he assures a dark-haired lovely reclining in his arms, "Egypt will have peace for centuries to come."

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

Sat & Sun September 13 & 14, 2008, 7:00 & 9:15, Muenzinger Auditorium

France, in French, Color, 99 min, 2.35 : 1 • official site

recommend

Tickets

10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.

Parking

Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.

RTD Bus

Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

International Film Series

(Originally called The University Film Commission)
Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

First Person Cinema

(Originally called The Experimental Cinema Group)
Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

C.U. Film Program

(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

C.U. Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

Thank you, sponsors!
Boulder International Film Festival
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Looking for a gift for a friend?
Buy a Frequent Patron Punch Card for $60 at any IFS show. With the punch card you can see ten films (a value of $90).

Virtual titles to stream from home

Cox & Kjølseth
: Filmmaker Alex Cox & Pablo Kjølseth discuss film topics from their own unique perspectives.

Z-briefs
: Pablo and Ana share Zoom-based briefs on what's currently playing at IFS

Sprocket Damage
: Sprocket Damage digs deep(ish) into current and classic films and film-related subjects to bring to you insightful, humorous, and enlightening perspectives on the industry.

Search IFS schedules

Index of visiting artists

Wed Oct 20, 2021

Drunken Angel

At Muenzinger Auditorium

Fri Oct 22, 2021

Dodes'kaden

At Muenzinger Auditorium

more on 35mm...