Nov 15, 2019

Third Jean Dujardin OSS 117 Spy Comedy Begins Filming!

A whole decade after the release of his second OSS 117 spy spoof, Lost in Rio (review here), Jean Dujardin (who picked up an Oscar for Best Actor in the interim) has at long last stepped back into the role that brought him international fame. Cameras began rolling this week on a third OSS 117 comedy, as announced by director Nicolas Bedos via video of a clapperboard on Instagram. OSS 117: Alerte rouge en Afrique noire (literally translated as OSS 117: Red Alert in Black Africa, which very much has the ring of a Jean Bruce novel title, but the ultimate English title is unlikely to be a direct translation of the French one) is scheduled to film in Paris and Kenya, with Bedos (La belle époque) taking the reins from Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), who helmed the first two. Hazanavicius and Bedos both contributed to the controversial 2012 sex comedy portmanteau The Players, which also starred Dujardin. Jean-François Halin, who co-wrote the first two OSS 117 comedies with Hazanavicius and went on to create the very funny, Sixties-set comedic spy series Au service de la France (known as A Very Secret Service in America, where it streams on Netflix) handles solo scripting duties on this one. Pierre Niney (Yves Saint Laurent), Fatou N'Diaye (Spiral), and Wladimir Yordanoff (currently appearing with Dujardin in An Officer and a Spy) are also among the cast.

Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, code name OSS 117, began life long before Dujardin. The redoubtable secret agent was the brainchild of French author Jean Bruce, and starred in a series of 234 novels (of which only a handful have ever been translated into English) beginning in 1949 (and thus predating Ian Fleming's more famous superspy). The books are serious spy stories, and the character was initially treated seriously on screen, too, beginning in the 1950s, but most famously in a series of five exceptional Eurospy movies directed or produced by André Hunebelle (Fantomas) between 1963 and 1968. (Read my review of my favorite, OSS 117: Terror in Tokyo, which presaged many James Bond moments, here.) Once notoriously hard to track down in English-friendly versions, Kino Lorber has now, happily, released a set of those five films on DVD and Blu-ray. For a more in-depth history of the character and links to my reviews of all the films, see my post OSS 117: An Introduction.

In 2006, Michel Hazanavicius revived the character in the hilarious send-up OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (review here). That first spoof was set in the Fifties and brilliantly parodied the early Bond films (with Dujardin partly channeling young Sean Connery) and Alfred Hitchcock movies... along with the prevalent casual racism and sexism of that era. The 2009 sequel was set in the late Sixties, spoofing the Sixties Bond movies and Eurospy movies.

A third film has been mooted ever since, always intended to be set in Africa. At one point it was supposed to be set in the Seventies and parody blaxploitation movies, Jason King, and Jean-Paul Belmondo action flicks, as well as the Roger Moore Bond movies (and fashions) of that period. Now, presumably since so much time has passed, Premiere reports that OSS 117: Alerte roughe en Afrique noire will be set in the 1980s. While I'm sorry we won't see Dujardin sporting Peter Wyngarde-style fashions, the Eighties setting will still provide ample opportunity to spoof the Moore Bond films and Belmondo, whose own African spy epic The Professional was made in 1981.
Thanks to Jack for the red alert on this one!