Four Non-Bonds: OSS 117

The UK gets SKYFALL two weeks before the US. Don't worry, America! Here are some other cool spy films we can enjoy while we wait.

I see a lot of film fans on Twitter and Facebook subjecting themselves to marathon sessions of Bond movies in anticipation of Skyfall. Holy crap, guys. Not only does that sound like a sleep-inducing chore, but you're reducing the event - yes, event! - of a new Bond film to a ticked box on a 23-item checklist. No thanks! I get the excitement, but there are other ways to rev up for the new flick. That's the goal here, as we bring you (between now and November 9th) four Bond-inspired characters to tide you over.

We start with the stars and director of the Best Picture-winning The Artist. Whoa, whoa, hold up - where are you going? Hang on, cynical cinephiles. So maybe The Artist didn't deserve Best Picture. Is that the film's fault? For my money it was a perfectly enjoyable bit of fluff, an affectionate film forgery on the order of something like Grindhouse or Black Dynamite that was guilty of nothing more than being a bit empty. As an aside, we need empty movies to win the Oscars to remind everyone what nonsense that whole pageant is anyway. And the punchline to that whole chapter of awards season was that the Academy didn't seem to get that director Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo were kind of just fucking around. In fact, it's the THIRD such film where they've paid light, goofy homage to films of the past.

The first two were paeans to Bond's Golden Age: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies and OSS 117: Lost In Rio. Officially presented as comedic takes on a long-running series of French novels (itself adapted into a French film series spanning three decades), these two films are at heart gorgeous, frothy love letters to Connery's Cold War Bond. Dujardin is a scream as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a cocky French spy who bumbles through his missions while bedding women, kicking ass, and offending foreign cultures all along the way. Hazanavicius really nails the aesthetics, and pays the kind of attention to detail that might be causing me to give the films' weak spots a pass. If I'm being honest, there are moments in which I'm not enough of a global citizen to know if the character is mocking the foreign cultures or if the filmmakers are. Same goes for the misogynist stuff; Bejo (Hazanavicius' wife, by the way) is cast as the clearly intellectual love interest in the film, but then this happens, so...

Doesn't this screen grab make you wonder, as it made me wonder, if the AMPAS knew about these films when they gave The Artist the Oscar for Best Picture? Anyway, there are two. Both are on Instant; watch them!