Review: OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009 movie)

Three years after the frequently hilarious OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, director Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin return with a sequel (released in French as OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus — Rio is no longer answering) that I didn’t like as much but still mildly recommend.

Even more than the first film, this one pointedly ridicules OSS 117’s sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism, to the point that it makes the hero less likable and more of an insufferable jerk. But there are still enough funny bits that I can offer at least a mild recommendation.

The first film is set in 1955 and the second in 1967, and again Hazanavicius uses historically appropriate lighting techniques, fight choreography, and special effects.

It was interesting to see how whoever wrote the subtitles dealt with jokes in French that for one reason or another don’t easily translate. For example, the head of the French secret service tells the hero a sum in francs that’s being demanded by an extortionist in Rio. The hero responds, very seriously, “Nouveaux?” To get the joke you have to know that the franc had some years before been revalued, with one new franc worth 100 old ones, which would have made the extortion amount ludicrously modest had it been in terms of old francs. Despairing of getting all this across to an American audience in a subtitle, the translator simply had the boss quote a number and OSS 117 ask “francs?” which works but isn’t particularly funny.

I don’t mean to pretend that my French is good enough to follow more than the occasional bit of dialog without subtitles, but I did make some effort, and at one point I suffered an attack of severe bafflement trying to figure out what the dickens the word “Vième” — seen in print but not spoken — might mean. I looked it up in my French dictionaries and even tried Google Translate, all without success. I’m ashamed to say how much I puzzled over it before catching on that the initial V in “Vième”is the Roman numeral V. That is, the word was actually cinquième, i.e., “fifth,” or Vth I suppose.

Here’s a trailer:


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