Sunday, December 10, 2017

That Man from Rio

Last night I watched That Man from Rio, since it happens to be available on DVD.

The movie doesn't start off in Rio, but in Paris. Prof. Catalan (Jean Servais) is a curator at a museum of anthropology, and during the museum's luch break, two guys go in the building and steal a valuable artifact! It was apparently recovered from a "lost" tribe in Brazil, which is how we're going to end up in Brazil eventually. This was one of three nearly identical statues that were recovered on the expedition; one is still in Brazil and the third was taken to France by a Prof. Villermosa who subsequently died. But the professor had a daughter Agnès (Françoise Dorléac) who might be able to help on the case.

As for Agnès, she's got a boyfriend in Adrien (Jean-Paul Belmondo). Adrien is currently doing his military service, but he's lucky enough that he's got eight days' leave to go see his girlfriend in Paris, not that he knows anything about these statues yet. He gets to the apartment where Agnès lives with her aunts to find out about it. Meanwhile, the folks who stole the statue have kidnapped the professor, and when the police tell Agnès her car is blocking traffic, it turns out to be a ruse from the folks who stole the statue to get her out of the apartment and kidnap her.

Adrien runs after Agnès, but he winds up at the airport with no money and no luggage. Thinking quickly, he's able to commandeer a general's wheelchair and get on the plane that way, which is headed for Brazil. Of course, it's not as if Adrien has thought about what he's going to do once he gets to Brazil. But when he does, it's the start of a long, involved search for Agnès, the professor, and the statues that takes everybody from Rio to Brasilia to the Amazon rain forest.

Ben Mankiewicz, in his introduction to The Man From Rio, called it one of those James Bond spoofs that were a big thing in the 1960s, but also mentioned that it had homages to a lot of other things, like the old heist movies and Alfred Hitchcock. I for one don't think I'd compare it to a Bond spoof. There are some lighter moments, but for the most part I think it's a relatively straightforward chase movie, in the vein of Saboteur or The 39 Steps.

It's also a movie that it took me a while to warm up to. I found that large portions of it were slow and made it difficult for me to care about the characters. And I don't think that was because it's in French and I was reading subtitles. But the movie eventually does succeed. A much bigger plus is the cinematography. The color photography of Paris, Rio, and Brasilia are good. At this point, Brasilia was less than ten years old, having been conceived as a planned city to be in a more central location. Concrete monstrosities and isolating open spaces were the order of the day, and the photography effectively makes Brasilia look like a dystopia, reminiscent of the apartment blocks in Alphaville although they're different dystopias.

That Man from Rio is, as I said at the beginning, available on DVD, as part of a double feature with another Belmondo movie, although it's a bit pricey being a foreign film.

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