The French Austin Powers' latest caper is down in Rio
Oss 117, aka Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, is the French Austin Powers, an absurdly sincere, prejudiced secret agent/fool who just happens to bust international mysteries in the nick of time.
Created by Jean Bruce, he was the subject of six films from 1956 to 1970 before director Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin revived him for the 2006 movie “Oss 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.”
They’ve brought him back for the sequel, “Oss 117 — Lost in Rio,” which transposes the action to the Brazilian hotspot during the swinging '60s. amNewYork spoke with the director and the star about the movie, which is playing at the Angelika.
What inspired the decision to make a sequel? How’d you keep things fresh?
MH: The character is exactly the same because it’s in his genes not to change. … So what we decided to do is change the world around him, which is easy when you’re doing movies.
Why’d you deviate from your initial plan to set the film during the Six Day War in Israel?
MH: I wanted to confront the character with the Jewish people, so the first idea was to put the action in Israel. When I spoke with Jean, he felt uncomfortable with this and I think he was right because our Mossad agent is very clichéd, and to put the action in Israel would be more near reality, and so it’d be more difficult.
How do you create a unified and complete narrative out of a succession of gags?
MH: For my part, I tried not to make a spoof movie. I think it’s not a parody. … I decided to respect the first degree of the movie. It’s not like a real good story, but it’s always near the stories of the original [“Oss 117” stories].
JD: It’s not just a series of gags and sketches. It’s also united by an aesthetic and structure. … Michel created the best possible frame for me [and] the best possible image for me to work in and that creates a unity in the film and gives it a different density.
What’s your operating principle in directing these films?
MH: The real subject, the not funny subject, is it’s a movie about cliché. The character goes and looks at other people with clichés. … The story goes with clichés: a spy, it’s set in Brazil. He takes a plane and the spy waits for him. It’s all cliché. And the direction is using cliché, also. It’s always split screen [etc.]. … That’s what I tried to do and make a more complete film that stands up by itself.
Is there something that’s just inherently a lot of fun about making a movie like this?
MH: It’s the cinema I loved when I was a kid. In this one, I had really the sensation, the memory of when I was a kid and watching TV with my parents and all these movies [with] Jean-Paul Belmondo, action movies, karate movies. I remember my mother, she said many times, “They had to have fun doing this movie, I’m sure” and on this one I had the sensation that we were [having fun] and it was our turn to laugh. … It’s very exciting, because they gave us a lot of money to do b------- [laughs].