Did OSS 117 really save French spy films?

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As the third installment of OSS 117 is about to hit theaters, the confusion between the character and the actor who plays the French spy has never been greater. However, Jean Dujardin was not the first to play this role and to have to save the French spy film as recalled in the documentary HOW OSS 117 AND LEMMY CAUTION SAVED THE SPY FILMS MADE IN FRANCE.

Of Lemmy constantine To Michael Hazanavicius, all were gathered in front of the camera ofAlain Riou and Sonia Medina to talk about French spy films. By multiplying the external points of view and the historical reminders, the documentary recalls as the characters of Lemmy Bail and OSS 117 were created with the mission of defending the French cultural exception. At the end of the Second World War, there was thus a stake in building a national culture that would be able to stand up to the American culture whose spy books – and soon films – invaded France.

These are therefore To fart Cheyney and Jeans Bruce, two authors of detective novels who will respectively give life to Lemmy Caution and OSS 117, two characters yet poles apart from each other: “Where Lenny Caution is just conscientious, OSS is eager for signs of wealth. Where Lemmy prefers drunkenness to the bottle, OSS is above all a racist, sexist and colonialist character. “ At that point, one can already wonder about how a nation aspires to build a new national culture by relying on such a loathsome hero. Yet that will not prevent John Bruce to write nearly a hundred novels, or to the actors to follow one another in a dozen film adaptations.

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Despite everything, according to the interviewees, OSS 117 remained an old-fashioned character condemned to rather premature aging because of all the aforementioned flaws. In parallel, Lemmy Bail continued his adventures, taking advantage of the confusion existing between the character and the actor who embodied him. In front of Eddie Constantine, OSS 117 was rather disembodied after being successively played by Ivan Desny, Kerwin Mathews, Frederick Stafford or John Gavin. Asked by documentary filmmakers, Michel Hazanavicius says that ” for a long time, people did not know if Lemmy Caution, was the name of the character or the name of the actor “. If this confusion ensured the success of the films ofEddie Constantine, once the latter stopped turning, the character immediately joined OSS 117 in the dark.

But beyond addressing the genesis and the reasons for the success of French-style spy films, documentary filmmakers allow us to question the use of humor in this cinematographic genre. On the one hand, Lemmy Caution, due to American origins by Eddie Constantine, made it possible to imitate and parody the Hollywood film noir. On the other side, the beginnings ofOSS 117 were intended to be less parody than today insofar as the character of John Bruce was openly racist, misogynist and colonialist. Also, when Michel Hazanavicius decided to make a parody of this character from the 50s, it was for him to take the codes of the time by showing their ridiculous today: a point that did not seem obvious to everyone.

svg%3E - Did OSS 117 really save French spy films?

Thus, in the documentary, Jean Dujardin recounts the genesis of the first film: ” It made it possible to make fun of it, and to say to ourselves “let’s not fall into this anymore”. The idea was not to laugh at everything but to laugh at us. »Suffice to say that the atmosphere seemed quite far from that today encouraged by Nicolas bedos who seems to have madeOSS 117 his personal knight in front of ” self-censorship and the moral mothballs that befall our societies “(First). However, in 2006 at the release ofOSS 117: Cairo, nest of spies, Aure Atika confides that the public did not laugh and found the words quite borderline. She says it took several interventions from the film crew to explain to people that it was not first degree.

The problem with the character ofOSS 117is that if the public does not instinctively think in the second degree when listening to him, it is perhaps because his words can still seem real today. Many works are still racist, sexist and colonialist, all the more so when the main character finds his origin in France in the 1950s. franchouillardes drifts Of the spy are still heard daily on some 24-hour news channels. As the character was originally problematic, it is sometimes difficult to grasp the outlines of his caricature as everything he can say can still be heard today.

Today, Nicolas Bedos almost suggests that he made a clairvoyant film in a society that is cradled with illusions. But wouldn’t it be the other way around?

Recently deceased, the philosopher Lauren Berlant wondered in particular about the political load present in humor. In this regard, she says in particular “ the privileged demand that the less privileged not be without humor. As [Sara Ahmed] the said, the person who names the problem becomes the problem. And if the person naming the problem is a feminist, a person of color, a politicized queer, or / and a trans person, the privileged devalue her because they are used to being deferred. and not tortured by a refusal of recognition. “Faced with the injunction to humor brandished by the director of the third opus, this analysis is sobering.

So even though it hasn’t been released yet, OSS 117: Red alert in black Africa will visibly retain its “ ability to use racist and sexist remarks as soon as the opportunity arises ”(France Info). During this time, Le Figaro wonders if today ” OSS 117 will find its audience ? »And we admit that we too, while we are trying to analyze the impact that this popular culture character really had on this famous French national culture that he was supposed to serve…. In the end, did OSS 117 really save spy movies and France? We still wonder.

Sarah cerange

svg%3E - Did OSS 117 really save French spy films?

Original title : How Lemmy Caution and OSS 117 saved spy films made in France – (… Or not?)
Production : Sonia Medina and Alain Riou
Release date : 2021
Duration : 51 minutes

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