Monday, March 5, 2012

Jean, Jean, The Dancing Machaun.

3 Hoofers (One with Hoof 'n' Mouth)

 ALL RIGHT! STOP TORTURING ME! I CONFESS MY NEW MANCRUSH ON JEAN DUJARDIN! I saw The Artist this week, and my passion is cemented. I am madly in lust with Jean DuJardin. Who in their right mind isn't? This man has more Gallic Charm than the bastard child of Maurice Chevalier and Leslie Caron. He's the guy Gene Kelly wanted to be in An American in Paris.

Kissing on hallowed ground.
Little Dougie was especially excited by this moment in the movie, Jean Dujardin's "meet cute" with  Bernenice Bejo, as they are on the Warner Brothers backlot, standing on the exact spot where Little Dougie met John Belushi in 1978. To Little Dougie, this is hallowed ground, though John called it "a little glimpse of Hell."

Given what the Arclight Cinemas charge, even with my senior discount (Or, in my case, my "Was IN Silent Pictures" discount), the projectionist really needs to pay more attention. I could hear the music and the sound effects just fine (You could hear a feather drop), but he didn't get the dialogue track up to "audible" until the very, very end, which is too little, too late if you ask me. Fortunately, the movie was close-captioned.

Christopher Plummer is magnificent, and earned his Oscar, but he was damned lucky the doggie from The Artist was not nominated. That pooch is a hell of a lot better actor than Cuba Gooding Jr. I was half-convinced  Uggie was Andy Sirkis.

I'm heels-over-head for Jean!
There were some Americans in The Artist. Lovely Malcolm MacDowell was utterly wasted in a tiny role in one scene. Excuse me, you Malcolm teases? We love Malcolm, and always want more. The Mentalist gets that, why doesn't The Artist?

And poor John Goodman. Oh, he's perfectly cast and is fine in the movie, but the toll that 9 years of surviving that harridan Roseanne has taken on his face is terrifying. Plus, trying to be heard over that shrill shrew for 9 years has left him with no voice at all. I couldn't hear a single word he spoke. (Well, maybe one.)

This movie is a silly blend of A Star is Born brightened by Singing in the Rain. Instead of surfing to death, Norman Maine shrugs it all off and becomes a musical star. Well of course he does; it's exactly what I did when talkies came in, except I didn't stop drinking.

But fun as the whole movie is, the main show is Jean Dujardin. There's a lot of reasons why he's won every major acting award out there this year, that he's become a Best Actor Oscar Winner who only speaks a tiny bit of English (But I bet he's getting crammed full of English lessons right now. Stardom in America is a powerful lure), the first actor since - what? - the first Oscars? - to win for a silent role?

But he's something rarer: a man who has won the Best Actor Oscar for a COMIC role! We love our Comedy Best Actor winners.

So I had to see him something else. They say he's a god in France. I'm a goddess there myself. I had to see what our Olympus could be like. I found he'd made a couple movies as Oss-117, a French secret agent that Roger Ebert described as combining James Bond with Inspector Clouseau. Well, it turns out that Netfix streams OSS 117: Cairo: Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio, so last night I watched OSS 117: Cairo: Nest of Spies.
French Agent OSS 117 can Goldfinger me anytime!

It was written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, who won Oscars for writing and directing The Artist. The female lead was Berenice Bejo, the Oscar-nominated female lead in The Artist. (Michel keeps shoving his own real-life wife into bed with Jean Dujardin! If any of my husbands had kept shoving me into bed with Jean Dujardin, the marriage might have worked out!) If you enjoyed The Artist, you'll get a kick out of OSS 117: Cairo: Nest of Spies. If you didn't enjoy The Artist, what is wrong with you?

"May  I cradle your instrument, Jean?"
 Like the Austin Powers movies, it's a parody of the James Bond films of the 60s (It's set in 1955). Unlike the Austin Powers movies, the humor is not applied with a sledgehammer to your skull, you are not presented with a repulsive grotesquerie,  or rather a parade of repulsive grotesqueries that are alleged to be sexy, and it's not an egotrip of massive proportions.

Watch the ease with which Jean displays his sizable talent and his sly comic chops in this scene from OSS 117: Lost in Rio, which I'll be watching soon. Though they are subtitled on Netflix streaming, you don't need subtitles to enjoy this, or get the humor.

Excuse me a moment. I need a quick, icy shower! [Addendum, 3-10: Damn! YouTube deleted this great, funny, sexy clip.]

Berenice got PAID to do this!
"Nice work if you can get it..."
Jean has major comedy chops. He does. This is a highly-skilled comic actor, who manages the rare feat for a man of making his being sexy funny, and his being funny makes him even sexier. There is no way around this fact either: Jean doesn't just look like Gene Kelly; he can dance just as well. This is not a comic actor who can get through a simple dance number; this man is a DANCER!

Did you see him dance his brains out on Saturday Night Life a couple weeks ago? If not, here he is. If yes, here he is again. Isn't he great? (NBC will make you sit through a 30 second ad before the piece, but it's worth it.)

Jean Dujardin on SNL

The character of OSS 117 did not start as a French gloss on 007. If anything, the reverse. OSS 117 began as a character in French spy novels in 1949, before Ian Fleming created 007. If there was any influence, and it's likely there was some, it was Fleming who was influenced by the French OSS 117 novels, of which there are well over 200, all by the same guy. I'll bet novel number 227 is really great, original reading.

There have been OSS 117 movies before Jean and Michel took the franchise, but they were straight-faced, serious thrillers. OSS 117: CAIRO: NEST OF SPIES is straight-faced, serious silliness, and it is funny.

There is a scene I don't know where they got the balls to shoot, particularly given it was a shot in 2006: OSS 117 is clueless about Arab culture and Islam. ("Your language is silly. It will never catch on.") On his first night in 1955, Cairo, he is awakened pre-dawn by the man in the minaret calling for prayers. Dujardin strides angrily to the window and screams at the top of his lungs: "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" And when that doesn't work, he goes out there and shuts him up personally (and thus, ignites an international incident without noticing).

Just a bit of fun.
Jean is strapped up in bondage [seen above, hubba, hubba], and viciously whipped, six strokes. It had to be six, because he could only count in a non-chalont manner as he is whipped in Arabic up to "five," and then had to switch to French for "six," looking mildly embarrassed. Then he spun slowly around, displaying his broad, unmarked back. There is not the slightest sign he's even been touched, let alone savagely flogged. When his hair gets mussed, he has but to run his palm across his head, and he has this perfect hairstyle, all Brylcreamed flawlessly back into place.

In the above photograph, the girl has to charm information out of a bad guy in a night club, a man who has seen OSS 117, so he "disguises" himself in the band to blend in. Naturally, Dujardin's enormous musical gifts kick in, and he rises to his feet, and improvises a big musical number that makes a star of him, and attracts so much attention, draws so much focus, that the girl must take the bad guy away to question elsewhere. When she returns to the cafe hours later, he's still taking bows, having apparently performed for hours, and basking in the adulation, as he does at the opening of The Artist. It's a really funny schtick!

And, I swear to you, as Dog is my witness, there is a fight in this movie between OSS 117 and a hooded, monk-like figure, that consists of them hurling live chickens at each other. It's hysterical.

Jean as a cowpoke?
Lucky cows!
At one point, in a hand-to-hand fight, carefully staged to look exactly like Bond fights in Goldfinger and Thunderball, he stops, poses, flashes that  billion-dollar smile, and says: "I love to fight." Gleam! - and the fight resumes. It's just total fun.

So Jean darling, drop by Morehead Heights anytime. I'll give you all the English you can handle, and you can cram me for hours!
And as if if this weren't bad enough, the in-flight movie was Jack & Jill with Adam Sandler.
Little Dougie and I tried to pay a visit to The Island the other day, to hang with Hurley and Ben, and tell them how badly The River blows, but incompetent little old Little Dougie got us onto Oceanic 816 instead of 815. Doh! Men, they just will not stop and ask directions while a plane is crashing.

"Norman, is that YOU? My, I'll bet you can penetrate deeply with that impressive weapon.
You're making me so moist, I need a quick shower. Is room #1 free?"

As it happened, Little Dougie found a nice little motel, on "The Old Highway." (It actually says "The Old Highway" on the decrepit street signs.) While Dougie gibbered something about the motel sign, as you can see in the background I'm having a chat with the innkeeper, a lovely young man with a charming stammer, named Norman. I got us a substantial discount on Cabin 1 by loaning him a couple of my frocks.

"Are you hear to bury my monkey?"
Dougie tried to ask up at the old, dark house on the hill behind the motel if they had cable up there, as he wanted to catch Smash! He's that way, you know. Mother Bates however, only watches the Kardashians.

But enough pointless meandering. Click over to Netflix and watch Oss 117- Cairo: Nest of Spies. Cheers darlings.
Bats in the Belfry.