I spent much of last week at the COL-COA film festival (which I keep wanting to call the Coca-Cola fim festival). I saw four of the new ones:
Secrets of State is an espionage thriller revolving around the DGSE, or the French CIA. It’s a convoluted story about Middle Eastern terrorists that never makes much sense with an ending that’s just plain silly. It’s directed by Phillipe Haim in the “hey, look at me, I’m a director and you’re not” style. He also wrote it along with Nathalie Carter and Julien Sibony. The director stated that it’s the result of three years research, and that may be so, but the research seems to have focused more on movies about espionage rather than the DGSE itself. The film also states that the DGSE has prevented numerous attacks (I can’t remember the exact number) like the one presented here. That may also be so, but you’d never know how considering the ineptness of the agents used here. Fortunate for them and for France, the terrorists apparently watched the same movies the director and writers did in making their plans. There is one bright note: though it’s against the law for gays to adopt in France, according to this movie, the DGSE has a program in existence to recruit gay men: of course, they have to have sex with someone like Nicolas Duvauchelle first, but it’s a sacrifice most gay men would be willing to make.
Final Arrangements is a comedy about the funeral business (which seems a tad redundant). It’s never anymore than all right and it has its moments, mainly in Didier Bourdon, very, very funny as a parlor owner who wants to become head of regional sales in Paris. Unfortunately, his plans are stymied when the head office hires Marc-André Grondin instead and sends him to Bourdon to learn the business (see Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way). The story, (screenplay by Sylvia Danton and Michel Delgado—who also directed) is all over the place and it never really comes together satisfactorily.
OSS 117 Rio was the best of the four new films I saw. The central character, played with a lot of teeth by Jean Dujardin, is the French version of Maxwell Smart, though without as many pratfalls, but with the personality of Archie Bunker, a bigoted, misogynistic idiot, though he doesn’t know it. The plot revolves around French collaborators during WWII and a Nazi still alive in Brazil. The director, Michel Hazanavicius, keeps things going at a good pace and does some fun things with split screens. The screenplay by Jean-Francois Halin and Hazanavicius, is even funnier and the satire is sharper than the original, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. It all ends with a very clever homage to both Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Vertigo atop Rio’s statue of Christ.