The French Aren't Just Mimes Anymore Review

What an adventure!

The vast majority of foreign language films that make any noise in the United States are solemn or nuts. And yet there are foreign action films, foreign comedies, and the like that go mostly unseen and unknown here. The home video market, in league with Amazon and other internet stores, has made it possible to make up lost time with high quality, restored transfers that give you the same--or even improved--experience that you missed by living outside of Europe or New York City. With the Cohen Film Collection's recent release of That Man from Rio (1964) and Up to His Ears (1965), you can enjoy two rather entertaining French adventure comedies from a director you've never heard of with an actor you might vaguely recognize.

Philippe de Broca made six films with Jean-Paul Belmondo, most of which were comic adventure stories. In That Man from Rio, there are three cursed statues belonging to an ancient civilization from Brazil and somebody wants to reclaim them, letting no one stand in their way. Adrien (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is on leave from the army and intends to enjoy it with his cute squeeze, Agnès (Françoise Dorléac). But that plan is rocked suddenly when Agnès is kidnapped and Adrien follows in hot pursuit, leading him to Rio. Agnès's father (deceased) was one of three archaeologists, including Prof. Catalan (Jean Servais) (who is quickly kidnapped himself) and a Brazilian property magnate Mário de Castro (Adolfo Celi), who each took one of the statues for themselves. When Adrien finally rescues Agnès, she dragoons him into helping to recapture the statues and thwart the nefarious plans (of person or persons unknown).

Up to His Ears is about Arthur (Belmondo), a rich young man who has travelled to Hong Kong and is completely bored by life and wants to kill himself. He has nothing to live for and his vacuous fiancé and her vacuous family are no help. When Arthur loses his fortune (and his fiancé), his friend Mr. Goh (Valéry Inkijinoff), a Chinese philosopher, comes up with an idea for Arthur's death to at least be of some use. He organizes a one month life insurance policy for $2 million and promises to have Arthur killed, thus enriching the fiancé and Mr. Goh. In short order, Arthur has a change of heart, fearing attack and running away from the two henchmen that seem to be following him around. Then, when he meets the beautiful Alexandrine Pinardel (Ursula Andress), part-time anthropologist and stripper, his lust for life is overwhelming. Thus begins a madcap adventure to find Mr. Goh to call off the killers to evade death and get the girl.

Both films are heavily influence by the Tintin stories from the artist-writer Hergé. If you're familiar with those stories, you cannot help but be reminded of them. Even before seeing the special features, I wrote the note "Tintin a la The Pink Panther [(1963)]". On its own, then, these provide for the same level of robust entertainment. They are also interesting in that they capture two economic epochs just as they were beginning to explode: Brazil and Hong Kong in the 60's. In That Man from Rio, an extended sequence makes use of an empty Brasilia, the pre-planned city that would become the country's modern capital. The grandeur and quiet of that city adds a dramatic flavor to what is mostly whacky stunts and gags. Up to His Ears does the same with the growth of Hong Kong but without giving the same amount of time and rumination on the subject. That film is a great deal more zany than the first.

According to de Broca, Steven Spielberg had called him to say that Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) had been strongly influenced by That Man from Rio. De Broca told him that That Man from Rio had come from Tintin. Thirty years later, Spielberg directed The Adventures of Tintin (2011). How interesting.

Bonus features

On That Man from Rio, an hour-long making-of feature "The Adventures of Adrien: The Catalin Affair", "Brothers of Cinema: Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Philippe de Broca", and "Silly & Serious: George Delerue and Philippe de Broca", the original and re-release trailers. On Up to His Ears, "From Cartouche to Cavaleur: Jean Rochefort and Philippe de Broca", a half-hour feature "That Man from Hong Kong", and the original and re-release trailers.

"That Man From Rio and Up To His Ears" is on sale April 14, 2015 and is not rated. Adventure. Directed by Philippe De Broca. Written by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Ariane Mnouchkine, Daniel Boulanger, Philippe de Broca. Starring Francoise Dorleac, Jean Paul Belmondo, Ursula Andress.

Jason Ratigan • Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.


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