DVD Review: OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies (2006)
The writers and actors also discuss linguistic subtleties that English-speaking viewers probably miss, which I found interesting. Actress Aure Atika says that Hazanavicius wanted the film to sound like a dubbed movie (meaning an English film dubbed into French, as the early Bonds would have played). "They had a very peculiar tone," she explains. Watching these films, I've occasionally wished that English dubbed versions had been created to parody that particular cadence and style of voice acting so familiar to fans of Sixties European cinema, but it never occurred to me that perhaps they'd already done exactly that in their own language! We're also treated to some cool behind-the-scenes footage of the actors filming rear projection driving scenes, and Schiffman sings the praises of the set decorators, explaining how important it is that the sets look like they're right out of a Fifties film. "The set itself is not funny. Jean will be what's funny." I thought that was an excellent point.
This featurette also delves briefly into the storied history of the character, and we're even treated to some clips from the original Sixties OSS 117 films. Producer Nicolas Altmayer reveals that the project's origin is based on memories of paperback book covers in his parents' library, which led him to the idea of creating a new film based on Jean Bruce's OSS 117 series. Co-writer Jean-François Halin says that he read a few of the books and watched a few of the movies. (Not too surprsing since the opening sequence, in which OSS 117 faces some Nazis on a plane in the closing days of WWII, actually comes directly from Bruce.) It quickly became apparent to him and Hazanavicius that the existing ingredients only needed to be exaggerated slightly to become jokes. "We kept the rules," says Dujardin, "but shook them a little to make them funny."
The DP addds that Dr. No was a big influence as well (obviously!), "because it's the best and we thought that Jean and Sean look a lot alike. And HItchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much because it is set in Morroco for the colors, the way it was filmed, how it looks willingly fake." Halin also shares some good insight into what makes Dujardin's version of Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath such a winning comedic creation. "It was funny to have a character so skilled and so clever... and yet so dumb." It may be simply phrased, but that's really an excellent summation of the carefully crafted paradox that makes the character work. Bernice Bejo chimes in with the other key to keeping him likable: he never does anything out of malice. He tries to do the right thing, and his mistakes and cringe-inducing xenophobia can all be chalked up to ignorance, not spite. It's a real feat to make such a character a compelling lead, and the team behind OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies and its sequel OSS 117: Lost in Rio has managed to pull it off twice!
Read my theatrical review of OSS 117: Lost in Rio here.
Read my review of OSS 117 se déchaîne here.
Read my review of Banco à Bangkok pour OSS 117 (aka Panic in Bangkok aka Shadow of Evil) here.
Read my review of Furia à Bahia pour OSS 117 (Fury in Brazil, aka OSS 117: Mission For a Killer) here.
Read my review of Atout coeur à Tokyo pour O.S.S. 117 (aka OSS 117: Terror in Tokyo) here.
Read my review of Pas de Roses pour OSS 117 (aka OSS 117: Murder For Sale) here.
Read my review OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions (OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies) here.
Read my DVD review of OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus (OSS 117: Rio Doesn't Answer, aka OSS 117: Lost in Rio) here.