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Spy Spoofs Come to DPAC

Kevin Noonan | Thursday, March 22, 2012

This weekend, the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC) brings two films decidedly not steeped in Oscar gold or cultural significance, but instead follow the campy adventures of a bumbling, foolish international spy.

“OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies” and “OSS 117: Lost in Rio” are two French comedies from the mind of writer-director Michel Hazanavicius and star Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin as OSS agent 117, who is equal parts James Bond and Jacques Clouseau, with an emphasis on foolishness.

Hazanavicius and Dujardin are currently the golden boys of Hollywood for their cinematic tribute to silent films, “The Artist,” which won five Oscars at the 2012 Academy Awards.

But in the vein of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, before Hazanavicius and Dujardin could make their “Good Will Hunting,” they had to make their own version of Kevin Smith 1990s comedies in order to get on the map.

This came in the OSS 117 films, a continuation of a series of films from the 1950s and 1960s. However, instead of keeping the style of overly-serious spy thrillers, Hazanavicius decided to flip the genre on its head. The result was two uproarious comedies.

In the first, 2006’s “Cairo, Nest of Spies,” 117 must find the missing spy Jack Jefferson. The web of intrigue grows increasingly deeper and more ridiculous, as he encounters Soviets, British, Egyptians, Belgians and even a Nazi splinter group.

The film was well received both in France and internationally, and won top awards at both the Seattle International Film Festival and the Tokyo International Film Festival.

The film’s success led to a sequel three years later. In 2009’s “Lost in Rio,” 117’s exploits get no less ridiculous. In the opening scene, almost everybody dies except 117 and a Chinese countess at the hands of Red Chinese assassins.

The film’s hero must then travel South America, where he runs into an escaped Nazi, Mossad agents and hippies.

The film’s parody roots stay strong in the spy films of the 1960s, but expand to include the films of Dean Martin and Alfred Hitchcock.

While the sequel didn’t receive awards like the first did, it was equally well-received with critics and was a commercial success.

“OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies” can be seen Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and “OSS 117: Lost in Rio” will be showing Saturday at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $3 for students and can be purchased at the box office in DPAC or at the center’s website, performingarts.nd.edu.