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Film / OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

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OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions) is a 2006 French satirical film lampooning European spy movies, Connery-era James Bond films and the French geopolitical context of The '50s. It was directed by Michel Hazanavicius.

Jean Dujardin plays Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a.k.a. OSS 117, a French secret agent sent to Cairo in 1955 to investigate the mysterious disappearances both of another OSS agent and a ship full of illegal weaponry. His prowess in hand-to-hand combat and seduction is matched by his bumbling stupidity and utter ignorance of the Arab World.

Based on a not-at-all satirical series of spy novels by Jean Bruce, which first inspired non-satirical some Eurospy films in The '60s. Followed by two sequels, OSS 117: Lost in Rio and OSS 117: Red Alert in Black Africa.

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OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Of Eurospy fiction and James Bond.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Played for comedy. 117's fond recollections of his time with his old buddy are cartoonishly homoerotic. He also has an overly disgusted reaction to the thought of two men having sex, which suggests that he's "protesting too much." At one point he tells Larmina that her charms are almost enough for him to "switch teams," although he's talking more about joining the Eagles of Kheops.
  • Animated Credits Opening
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: In a earlier mission, 117 is tasked with recovering a suitcase from a Nazi wanting to fly to Buenos Aires in 1945.
  • Bad Boss: Moeller.
    Moktar: I told you, you should have tied him up.
    [BLAM!]
    Moeller: I told you to shut up.
  • Becoming the Mask: 117 quickly becomes more interested in raising chickens than in being a spy.
  • Advertisement:
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: 117 to the princess toward the end. His second shot, however...
  • Call-Forward: "Egypt will have peace for centuries to come."
  • Cat Fight: 117's girlfriend fights the evil woman towards the end. 117 enjoys this very much.
  • Character Tics: OSS 117 has many James Bond tics. Such as a Fascinating Eyebrow or a tendency to lean on his leg with the foot on some kind of support.
  • Character Title
  • Clothing Damage: During the Cat Fight between Larmina and the princess.
  • Clucking Funny: 117's cover is a poultry business. He has way too much fun turning the light on and off and confusing the chickens in his chicken coop.
  • Cringe Comedy:
    • At times when it come to sex jokes.
    • Possibly the biggest example is after 117 interrupts the muezzin (the prayer caller from atop minarets in Islam) for waking him up. Bad enough, but then he actually admits this matter-of-factly to Larima, as if telling her he'd squashed a bug that was keeping him awake.
  • Dead Partner: OSS 117 is investigating the disappearance of his partner Jack Jefferson, who's believed to have been murdered.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The film does not shy away from depicting the racism and sexism of the '50s. It does also reference the Values Dissonance of early James Bond movies and OSS 117 novels and films.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • 117 overpowers, undresses (to her undies) and ties up a woman in the Eagles of Kheops' lair (Larmina); when he opens the door, three Mooks stop him, then stare at the barely dressed pretty woman behind him.
    • Also works on 117, who is clearly enjoying the Cat Fight by the end too much to actually do something to stop it.
  • The Ditz:
    • 117 is good at fighting but not so much at thinking.
    • The Belgian (in French movies they are always ditz) chicken coop owner, when all the other coop owner are throwing Ice-Cream Koan he simply asks if they want a drink.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: 117's handgun. He can load and unload it. It has a great coefficient of penetration.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: When Larmina reminds OSS 117 that he is about to meet the "gratin cairote" (a.k.a. the upper crust of Cairo). It gets uncomfortable... and hilarious.
    Larmina: It will be above all a great occasion to meet the "gratin cairote".
    OSS 117: And not the "gratin of potatoes".
    Larmina: [death glare]
    OSS 117: Because it sounds like carrot. It is the vegetable... Because you said gratin. Like potato gratin.
    Larmina: [death glare]
    OSS 117: The "gratin of potatoes", it is a joke.
    Larmina: I'll fetch you at 7pm.
  • Dramatic Curtain Toss: Parodied; Moeller attempts this, but only manage to rip off a piece of the swatiska-adorned curtain.
  • Driving a Desk: Done deliberately as part of the homage to old Bond flicks.
  • Evil Former Friend: Jack Jefferson
  • Expy: The Eagles of Kheops for the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Jean Dujardin had a lot of fun with this trope.
  • Faux Fluency: Jean Dujardin managed to sing Bambino in Arabic, after "5 or 6" phonetic lessons.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Subverted. 117 completely fails to comprehend an important clue in a matchbook.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Both the dagger bottle and bottle as bludgeon are used during the fight in the hotel room.
  • Hair Reboot: 117 passes a hand over his bed-head and his hair is instantly styled.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Larmina, sort of. She still believes in the ideals of the Eagles of Keops, she's just willing to work with OSS 117 to overthrow their leader because he assassinated her father.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • 117 recently arrived from Algeria, comes to Cairo to deal with the Suez Canal Crisis, and at the end of the movie he's heading to French Indochina. Historically, all three situations were massive disasters for France.
    • Also, OSS 117's over-the-top affection for (space-filling nonentity) French President René Coty.
  • Hollywood Darkness: All night scenes are shot on sunny days with a blue filter, in keeping with the parody of 1960s filmmaking.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face:
    • Pelletier is about to shoot 117, Guns Akimbo, but his guns are jammed, so he starts checking them with complete disregard for any gun safety. 117 tries to warn him, but he ends up shooting himself.
    • "Now, princess, you're going to tell me exactly what—" (shoots)
  • Innocently Insensitive: How 117 has a tendency to come across. He's not trying to be racist/intolerant of Islam, he just knows almost nothing about either Egypt (getting the completion dates of the pyramids and the Suez canal mixed up, among others) or Muslims.
  • Instant Expert : Played for Laughs — posing as a musician in order to spy on a suspect, the clumsy 117 reveals itself a surprisingly apt oriental-style crooner (with lute playing and singing in Arabic), leading to a frenzied musical number.
  • Insult Backfire: After 117 makes a particularly ignorant statement, his love interest remarks, "You are very French." He takes it as a compliment.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": It is "One Hundred and Seventeen" not "One, One, Seven". Normal in the original French, in which "cent dix sept" is more natural than "un un sept".
  • It Will Never Catch On: Hilariously inverted. Several times in the movie, 117 speaks about René Coty (French president of the era), whom he describes as a great man who will leave his mark in history. René Coty was largely forgotten in the later decades... until the release of the movie. Nowadays, Coty is mostly remembered as "this obscure French president who is referred in the OSS 117 movie and receives a wrong posthumous fame."
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Works even with women who are trying to kill him.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: The conversation between spies posing as livestock industrials starts as a philosophical conversation with heavy subtext about them being spies and menacing each other. But it quickly turns completely nonsensical with lots of Word Salad Philosophy, leaving the Belgian agent completely lost in the process.
  • The Mole: Larmina is working for the Eagles of Kheops, a Muslim Brotherhood-esque organization.
  • Monochrome Past: The 1945 intro.
  • Neck Snap: 117 to Setine (the Soviet agent).
  • Not So Different: Moeller and OSS have the same fond memories about their respective friends.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The chicken guy can't decide whether 117 is very, very stupid or very, very talented.
  • Obsessed with Food: OSS 117. And likely the whole French secret service (or France, really). OSS 117 uses food-related code sentences, makes food (bad) jokes or compares Egyptian music instruments to cheese pastries.
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • The way 117 chases the villain down the streets of Cairo, pausing dramatically at every single intersection to glance around, then dashing decisively off in one direction... and ultimately getting lost.
    • Also, the guy who's constantly on the phone informing his boss that 117 has arrived somewhere.
  • Patriotic Fervor: 117 demonstrates why this is a bad thing in diplomacy.
  • Phallic Weapon: 117's handgun. He holds in in front of his crotch while commenting on how he can load it and unload it.
  • Politically Correct History: Completely averted.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Subtly played for laughs — the characters speak French in an overly enunciated manner that sounds both theatrical and dated to a contemporary audience.
  • Refuge in Audacity: 117, unable to go to sleep because of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. He climbs the minaret and starts fighting the guy, knocks him out and goes back to sleep. And then tells Larmina about it the next morning.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Subverted. Camera pans away from 117 and his lover, to a bouquet of roses on a table — and then to a mirror showing the two thrusting at each other, fully clothed. Whereupon the camera hastily pans back to the roses.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Moktar, the Genre Savvy Mook: "You should tie him, colonel."
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Lampshaded. "Blah blah blah. Funny how Nazis are always the bad guys. Hello, OSS 117? We are in 1955. Can we have a second chance?"
  • Unreliable Expositor: 117 homoerotic memories of his friend Jack are a bit off; the cheeky laughter were only done by him and Jack felt so bullied that he turned against France.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Parodied. At the end of the movie, 117 is clearly more interested in watching the dramatic fireworks than kissing.
  • Video Credits

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