0SS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

Director Michel Hazanavicius and his star, Jean Dujardin, scored a hit at SIFF '06 with 0SS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, a hilarious French spy spoof set the mid '50s. They followed with a lesser sequel (OSS 117: Lost in Rio), but their first genuine American success is The Artist, which has been earning superlatives from Cannes to its current U.S. release (Oscar nominations are expected). In Cairo, Dujardin plays the sexist, chauvinist, secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (code name OSS 117), who doesn't know the first thing about the world outside his Paris tailor's shop. Nor does he care to learn. Upon arrival in Egypt, he's yawningly incredulous that people speak Arabic—not French? Zut alors!—and worship a strange god. This whole Islam thing, he predicts, it'll never last. Though assigned a chic local assistant (Bérénice Béjo, also in The Artist), and attracting notice from a sexy princess, our man in Cairo is mainly confounded by the chicken plant he must run as a cover for his covert operations. And he's haunted by the memory of his dead WWII buddy Jack, with whom he played many a manly, joyous paddleball game on the beach, then wrestled ecstatically in the surf. Oh, how they laughed together, Hubert and Jack! Laughed! OSS 117 is deliciously and authentically textured with the cheesy rear-screen projection, tailored JFK suits, and trim Jackie dresses of the era, but Hubert's retrograde ignorance of the world still resonates. As an incurious, self-assured, colonialist idiot barges through a foreign culture he doesn't understand, making enemies and offending the natives at every turn, the film is as much foreign-policy critique as comedy. Movie screens at midnight. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Fri., Jan. 6; Sat., Jan. 7, 2012

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