He’s baaaack.  That glib smile, that infectious laugh, that receding hairline, those mischievous eyebrows and, lest I forget, that prêt-à-porter wardrobe.  In OSS 117: Lost in Rio, French comedic actor Jean Dujardin returns for another, hilarious outing as the secret agent code-named OSS 117.   This time around, it’s a doozy, as in douze ans plus tard.  OSS 117 is twelve years older and more inept than ever!

As with 2006’s uproarious OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, this sequel also was adapted from the OSS 117 novels by Jean Bruce.  Dujardin’s Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath reads like an early “007” on acid.  That he resembles Sean Connery’s James Bond (circa Dr. No) while poking fun at Gallic arrogance lends parodic thrills and caustic political satire to his new, South American adventure.

Take note:  The bumbling spy who can never seem capable of parallel parking his flashy convertible, is not OSS double-one seven.  Non pas de tout.  He’s OSS cent dix-sept!  Mais oui.  Amid all the hijinx, Bonisseur de la Bath, who’s flitting through Brazil’s pristine beaches, scenic roads and tropical rainforests as evening newspaper reporter “Noel Flantier,” tries his dogged best to get laid – thus, my ironic title for this review.  He possesses neither the dashing charm of Connery’s Bond nor the rugged allure of James Coburn’s Derek Flint (himself a parody of the debonnaire Bond) in Our Man Flint.   Every time “petit Hubert” tries to take a “dip,” it’s a side-splitting laugh for us, the viewers.  And oh, it hurts so good!

From the jump, the little birdies spying on Bonisseur de la Bath (prior to his assignment as “Noel Flantier”) and a lover in the sack are getting more action. Bad enough that the vacationing secret agent remains in his skiing ensemble (including footgear) while his sex mate is sprawled in a sheer, hot-pink teddy.  Even funnier, wings of the fornicating (mechanical) birds flutter frenziedly to a devil-may-care tune breezing above the bed and out a window that reveals an ethereal, midnight blue sky.

Here are nine more scenes that had me on the floor choking with laughter.  In no particular order:  1) the film’s intro, with a never-ending twist (as in the jaunty dance – after all, this sequel is set in the sixties) and Bonisseur de la Bath’s stupid smile while he’s gyrating his hips;  2) the split-screen depiction of Noel’s arrival in Brazil, the enemy on his heels and a commercial samba score setting up the retro mood;  3) Noel yelling at his Nazi prey with a waterfall behind him that mutes his voice;  4) a Nazi’s German stylings on the bossa nova classic “The Girl from Ipanema,” replacing Astrud Gilberto’s breezy “Ahhh” in the chorus with a chilly (and chilling) “Brrr”;  5) Noel’s  brash interrogation of two children living in a favela, with regard to the whereabouts of a Nazi whom he was sent to capture because he possesses an object that could compromise the honor and legacy of the French Resistance; 6) Noel’s refusal to stop repeating a corny pun involving his spy name and his Christmas boules (his “Christmas present,” he says to his unamused Israeli Jewish female Mod-stylin’ espionage partner, Dolores, before trying the joke on a colleague telephonically);  7) Noel’s sexual harassment of his aforementioned spy partner as their airplane plummets to their uncertain deaths;  8) Noel’s misconstruing of the term hippie sects with hippic sex; and 9) CIA operative Bill Trumendous’ jarring Franglish and his grinning insults, to Noel’s bewildered reaction, in the former’s car.

However, one, wonderfully extended sequence that was worth the DVD’s price – a cost with the altitude of Cristo atop Corcovado – occurs on a Rio beach at nighttime.  Sometime after Noel unwittingly accepts LSD (to which he refers as the French abbreviation RSVP later in the film) from a hippie chick, not only is he lost in Rio but also he loses his clothing.  He finds himself tripped-out with a group of hippies who are camped around a fire and, upon the acid’s full effect, engaging in an orgy with them.  If that weren’t psychedelic enough, soul singer Minnie Riperton’s chirpy 1970s ballad “Loving You” offers a starkly innocent contrast to all the naturalistic, writhing, carnal movements.

The orgy sequence’s split-screen effect feels so perfectly vintage.  Immediately I thought of 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair as well as early- to mid-sixties romantic comedies starring Doris Day.  Dujardin’s “backlit” partial nudity around the fire is arousing.  Against the flickering images of lips on breasts and palms on buttocks, Noel’s participation in group sex lends him sensual depth – as if the subtle flexing of Dujardin’s arched eyebrows, though they’re a thinner version of Sean Connery’s Scottish thickets, doesn’t imply a soupçon of virility.  That glow on Noel’s countenance isn’t the look of love; it’s the blissful expression of “loving” the one you’re with.

Caution:  OSS: Lost in Rio makes no apologies for political incorrectness. No, in an OSS 117 film, savoir-faire is not everywhere.  Nor is it anywhere.  Throughout the movie, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath repeatedly shows why he is a bigot and an asshole (OK, the two are mutually exclusive) by spewing forth anti-Semitic and misogynistic remarks.  Sometimes he doubles up on offensiveness.  If you can get through reruns of the satirical 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” without surfing to another channel, then you can endure OSS: Lost in Rio.  Also, there’s brief nudity, so combined with the un-PC nature of the dialogue, this is a film made for an adult audience.  Or, put another way, it’s one, cool European flick.
 

Copyright © 2011 By Chantale Reve


DVD:  OSS 117:  Lost in Rio

Director:  Michel Hazanavicius

Studio:  Music Box Films

DVD release date:  August 31, 2010

Format:  NTSC, WS

Rating:  Not Rated

Running time:  97 min.

Language:  French, with English subtitles

DVD Bonus Features:  Behind the Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

Photo Source:  IMDb

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Intrusive thoughts on infertility,

Palpable in the stifling stillness of the examining room,

Penetrate the lumpy surface of my hijacked womb.

 

Supine,

Like a cadaver,

Confined,

I’m denied a peek at the sonogram’s monitor,

Only a poker face offering no clues to the sci-fi picture.

 

Taking a gamble –

Charm having failed as a device –

I beg the technician for a full view of the aliens. (No dice)

 

From her boombox,

Light jazz intended for heavy petting

Turns me moody,

Though not in the “saxy” way James’ bebopping horn blows

In the serenade beginning:

“There I go, there I go, there I go, ther-r-r-re I-I go-o-o-o …”

 

Belly-buckling sobs drown out indifferent witness,

Blur my vision of a future filled with ornery offspring,

Underscoring that technology can’t eradicate emotional sting.

 

I hasten to hoist underpants over hamhocks and hips,

Shuddering from the silence lingering in air

Frostier than a January breeze lashing unkissed lips.

 

But, alas, a final violation –

Raven-haired receptionist dispenses humiliation,

A well-rehearsed line to collect my fine,

Her gatekeeping eyes flashing a No Exit sign.

 

At this existential impasse,

I long for the lesser of two evils:  a Sartrean hell.

Then, repetition of my name breaks the philosophical spell.

 

“Do I pay now?”

“Oh, you’ll pay later.”

My fate is sealed as I watch serpents

Strike amid the tresses of the HMO-paid instigator.

 

Copyright © 2000/2011 By Chantale Reve


I have always thought of settings as characters in my short stories, most of which are of an erotic nature.  The late great director Sidney Lumet has been quoted as saying that locations are characters in his films.  While in no way can I claim director Lumet as an influence, I also cannot ignore that the fact that the first time I saw forcible fellatio depicted on screen (or anywhere else) was in Lumet’s Serpico (1973).  That also was the terrifying year that I had to memorize “The Lord’s Prayer” under threat of a “whuppin’,” but I digress … as usual.

Works of art, no matter the medium, can have an impact on us on an unconscious level both collectively and individually.  The legendary Lumet was a cinematic genius, so that’s a staggering amount of cultural influence.  In addition to a strong sense of place — oh, how the Philly-born director was in love with New York City — what I embraced in Sidney Lumet’s critically acclaimed films were his characters.  Characters of conscience.

Dig it:  Network, 12 Angry Men (his first movie), Night Falls on Manhattan, The Verdict, Prince of the City, the aforementioned Serpico, and one of my all-time fave films:  Dog Day AfternoonAttica!  Attica! — Al Pacino in an iconic scene from Dog Day Afternoon (above photo is of the DVD set)

Oft-Oscar-nominated but never bestowed with the golden nude, yes.  To be forgotten?  Never.  Heaven speed, Mr. Lumet, to the ultimate of choice locations.

Sidney Lumet:  1924-2011

Rest in peace.

 

Photos:  IMDb


Depending on your age and cultural references, the term “Dr. Feelgood” may have a negative or positive connotation.  When applied to the man in charge of “The Steve Harvey Project,” it’s all good because there’s nothing wrong with overdosing on some downhome humor now and then.

The key words are now and then.  When you have a crick in your neck and it’s not the worn futon that’s to blame, but the boss’s heel imprint, then surfing to the Centric Network channel to catch the antics on “The Steve Harvey Project” can be a timely antidote.  Watch the show too often, however, and you might find yourself tripping over subject-verb disagreement at the office and landing on the unemployment line.

Then again, I worked at one place where a colleague used to respond to anyone’s attempt at a humorous anecdote with, “You is so crazy!” or he’d omit the verb altogether while euphemizing a swear word, as in: “Dang, you a hot mess!”  I won’t fuckin’ lie; the second remark of his was my favorite.

But I digress from the subject of this post.

I watch “the Projects”  — a shorthand that Harvey, his co-hosts and even some guests use for the veteran comedian’s televised morning radio show — whenever I need to decompress quickly after work.  I can get some easy laughs in front of the idiot box when I’m stressed from Type A assholes’ pushing my buttons as if I were a human accordion.

I also view the ensemble comedy/talk radio show whenever I desire a brainteaser.  Why bother with Sudoku when I can just fall back on my couch, totally exasperated from trying to decipher Harvey’s speech.  Don’t get me wrong.  Steve Harvey has charisma and a rich reservoir of humor, downhome and otherwise.  His timing is impeccable, his material is funny and his moustache is Pryoresque.

Oh, and Harvey’s insight probably saves several generations of Black folks from wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on the psychotherapy that they avoid as if it’s the superstition that unfortunately has survived the slavery era in America.  “What? You want me to put my bag where?  Under the table?  No can do.”

But here’s a twist:  Black folks may or may not be saving money by seeking Harvey and his sidekicks’ Southern shamanic treatments for their love joneses, the advertisers are racking up a fortune through subliminal messages that cater to the same viewers’ instinct to “keep up with the Joneses.”  And just when they thought they couldn’t buy enough fast cars, fast food and weight plans that make them “feeeeeel GOOOOOOD,” they get suckered in night after night through book plugs that pop up like those annoying, cloying TV ads for addictive sleep aids and pain medications.

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.  See, the love-drug-addicted among you probably got a rush just now.  I nabbed my copy of Harvey’s bestseller, not from my local library but from the pile of books headed for the trash heap outside.  Actually, I’m busted, too.  Ahem, eyes up here; I didn’t say busty.  I meant that I’ve been going through withdrawal symptoms waiting for another neighbor (or the same one) to toss out the sequel to Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.  Yes, I’m looking forward to being bullshitted straight through Straight Talk, No Chaser.  Or perhaps I missed my chance at a free copy.  Maybe an opossum already gobbled it up.  The critter took one look at Harvey’s yummy lips and bared its teeth like Karen Black at the end of that Trilogy of Terror vignette (the best of the three).

Yes, now and then “The Steve Harvey Project” has me grinding my teeth.  Not in my sleep but when I’m wide-awake.  Sometimes my ears are doing battle with Harvey’s smothered-fried dialect and I’m grabbing the remote for the umpteenth time to press the rewind button.  For me to unwind in those moments, the amount of negative stress in my workday must outweigh that experienced when I’m struggling through his chunky dialect.

Having said that, Harvey’s skit in which he purposely obscures every word in a sentence — as the aptly named character “Tongue Tied” — is hilarious because it’s supposed to be incomprehensible.  But there is another reason for the skit’s effectiveness:  One of Harvey’s female co-hosts, the überarticulate Shirley Strawberry, plays the role of interpreter.

If ever there was a perfect voice for a phone sex line, it would be Strawberry’s.  (Her surname alone is erotic, and I couldn’t care less whether she was born with it, married into it, or created it.)  I may wince through Harvey’s grammatical butchery as he scoffs at missives from the “E-mail Bag,” but while I’m listening to Shirley in the “Strawberry Letter” segment, I feel as if I’m receiving a full-body massage — at a remote island spa where I’ve traveled to only in daydreams.

My fave skit on “The Steve Harvey Project,” cardboard-and-wood fans down, is “Pastors with Horoscopes.”  Thanks to my father getting his way and making me follow the Baptist religion in childhood — even though he himself never attended worship services — I recognize all the love taps and outright disses in Harvey’s sketch.  For example, I never fail to laugh when the Reverend Motown (Harvey), with Deacon Def Jam (Harvey’s Nephew Tommy, a co-host of “the Projects”) at his side, opens his Baptist-style sermon with:  “Holluh, holluuuUUUHHH!  Backatchoboyyyy.”  Perhaps I’m not doing the line justice here.  You really need to hear it in all its gospel glory for yourselves.

Deacon Def Jam, too, has me rolling as he recites the church’s slogan — “Jackpot Joint of Jerusalem”  (a.k.a the “JPJJ”) — in an inadvertently maniacal voice.  Think legendary film villainVincent Price; for those of you under the age of 30, Price narrates at the end of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

As for the pastors’ “Jackpot Joint of Jerusalem,” there’s at least one inside joke:  that some of the most sanctified churchgoers are some of the most discreet high rollers at the casinos.  Hmmm, all that cash intended for Building Fund envelopes, gone!

With the exception of the old-school cash register’s “cha-ching” that follows the deacon’s intro — and, of course the horoscope readings (“Stop right dehre!”) — the sketch “Pastors with Horoscopes” brings back fun memories of my churchgoing days.  Hey, if one must be a captive congregant, one may as well get some comedic mileage out of the experience.

In a Black Baptist church, at least the one I joined as a young girl, the organist would lean on a few chords as the preacher approached the pulpit.  Although television doesn’t have the time to allow the Reverend Motown and Deacon Def Jam to spoof Black Baptist sermons fully, their skit mocks the best parts.

My favorite part of the sermons of yore was the revelation.  The lesson.  Upon hearing the organ cue up the sermon’s climax, I would completely awaken if my mother’s backhand hadn’t resuscitated me first.  Then I would stretch my eyes at my Mickey Mouse wristwatch and prepare for the jam session that was chutch.”  Just as instruments — vocal and mechanical — riff off each other in jazz, so too between organist and minister.

A whoosh of chords piping up sharply behind every few, briefly spoken-sung phrases could delineate how swiftly the listener might go to Hell if the pastor’s lesson were not heeded.  Or, a ripple of organ notes could accompany the preacher’s impromptu tap-dance number behind the pulpit as he sang in a gravelly voice about the upside of following the Lord’s word.

In “Pastors With Horoscopes,” Harvey opens the doors of the church.  In real life, when the minister would open the doors of the “chutch,” the musical dynamics would change dramatically, as in “a lil’ bit lighter now” — to borrow from The Isley Brothers classic “Shout.”  After all, it was time for the minister to beg.  He needed cold hard cash for the Building Fund, the Sick and Shut-in Fund, the Pastor’s Anniversary Fund, the Fish Fry Fund, the Patrimony Fund, etc.

It also was a time for the good rev to implore his suckers, er, sinners to come get their souls cleansed.  There always would be more women than men trudging up to the front.  For the minister, the anticipation would be worth it; soon the day would come when he would get to dunk a fascinating array of women dressed in white in a baptismal tub and revel at how the water renders the material translucent.

As thrilling as his priapic fantasy may have been, money really was the focus of his musical invitation.  While the pastor’s eyes bucked and seemed to beseech dollar bills out of Madea-heavy bosoms in the front and side pews, ushers would thrust gold-toned collection plates into the faces of congregants foolish enough to sit on the aisle.

As a young teen, I often thought how ingeniously those collection plates were designed, with a velvety cushion at the bottom center so that churchgoers couldn’t hear all the coins clinking into the plates.  When the plate clunked against my nose, I used to strain to see the dollar bills bouncing off each other at the top and watch men groping through their pockets and women rifling through their bags as if dropping paper in that plate was their last chance to make it into heaven.  It was all so psychological — the fleecing of the flock.

On a recent episode of “the Pastors” — how the sketch sometimes is referred to by Harvey and his co-hosts, and in the media — gospel celebrity Kirk Franklin paid a visit.  While the height-deprivation jokes were overdone (with Nephew Tommy playing Harvey’s foil as always), the chemistry between Franklin and Tommy, as the deacon, was electric.

When Harvey, as the Reverend Motown, revealed to Deacon Def Jam that “Kirkie” would be replacing him as the reader, he stammered the word Wait an astounding number of times before quipping:  “After all these yeeeuhhhs, he come in here wit a Gucci hat and a Gucci jacket on, and you give him–”

The Reverend Motown interrupted him to explain how Kirkie “has sold a million albums,” as if to justify the deacon’s demotion.  With perfect timing, a camera zoomed in on Franklin’s Hello Fear CD, while Shirley Strawberry and Carla Ferrell could be heard guffawing in harmony in the background.  Franklin’s objection over the minister’s injurious short jokes, led Reverend Motown to apologize to him while still managing to insult Deacon Def Jam.  Deadpanning, the preacher stated that Franklin is “a giant in the gospel world.”

The skit concluded with Kirkie Franklin making a plea for viewers to “call into the Short Ministry of all the people that’s tall through it all.”  Again, maybe you had to be there, but that episode of “Pastors With Horoscopes” was funny as hell.

“The Steve Harvey Project” airs on the Centric Network every weeknight.  In my area, the show airs at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.  Please check your local TV listings for show times.