0SS-117 is a superspy like no other. The perfect response to the naked British imperialism of his compadre, OSS-117 approaches international relations in a more honest, yet absurdly comic, way. Two films have been released so far in the re-launched series, Cairo: Nest of Spies (2006) and Lost in Rio (2009). The spoof, it turns out, is not only aimed at James Bond but at the original OSS-117 himself.
The original author of the OSS-117 series of books, Jean Bruce, wrote a very Bond-like franchise that appeared 4 years prior to Ian Fleming’s hero. Bruce, his wife and his daughter went on to pen more than 200 OSS-117 novels. Several films were released in the late 50s and 60s.
This new incarnation however is something else entirely. Jean Dujardin is not so much subduing the third world for the glory of France as exposing the arrogance and ignorance of French imperialism, the hubris of the men who came before. In a brilliant satire of French patriarchy and racism, the new OSS-117 tells the story of the Cold War era in what turns out to be a blatantly more honest light. Free from the obligatory nationalist flag waving, this look back at the 1950s and 60s pits modern ideas against the entrenched old order. OSS-117 is an unrepentant ambassador of the old guard, blundering forward through every situation without tact or self-awareness – somewhat relevant to current events.
The genius is that his missteps reveal cultural biases at every turn, and aren’t simply for creating a meaninglessly goofy character to gawk at. He’s misogynistic, racist, full of himself, slow on the uptake and a serial womanizer. In most scenarios at least one of these traits will work against him and get him into deeper and deeper trouble.
I’m hoping the series continues, as the films to date have been hilarious.