Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released in France on February 5, 1964 and in the US on June 8, 1964
Directed by Philippe de Broca
Written by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Ariane Mnouchkine, and Daniel Boulanger
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Françoise Dorléac, Jean Servais, Adolfo Celi, Daniel Ceccaldi, Roger Dumas, Simone Renant, Ubiracy De Oliveira, Milton Ribeiro, Nina Myral, Lucien Raimbourg
My blogging friend Keisha over at cinema cities mentioned this film in one of her recent posts, calling it a ‘French spoof of an Indiana Jones movie’, and this comment immediately piqued my interest, and had me wondering if I could actually find it somewhere and give it a watch. Surprisingly, my local library carried it, and though it was labeled as a ‘U’-titled release for some reason, I was still able to track it down and make it my Saturday night movie of choice a few weekends ago.
Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as Adrien Dufourquet, a French soldier returning home to Paris on a week-long leave; he immediately finds himself embroiled in international intrigue when his girlfriend Agnès—the daughter of an explorer who was killed during an expedition—is inexplicably kidnapped moments after Adrien arrives at her home. Agnès is drugged and flown to Rio de Janeiro, with a befuddled Adrien hot on her trail; he soon discovers that her abduction is connected to a group of men searching for three mysterious Amazonian statuettes…one of which her deceased father once possessed.
I really got a kick out of this one; I could definitely see the Raiders of the Lost Ark parallels, with hints of Bondian spy adventures thrown in for good measure, but what That Man from Rio reminded me of most was the Hitchcock chase thriller North by Northwest, which starred Cary Grant as an innocent man on the run from a multitude of unknown enemies. Here, Belmondo is chasing the enemies, and along the way finds himself involved with assorted thugs, hotel security, alligators, poison darts, and a girlfriend who suddenly—and maddeningly—doesn’t remember him.
I’d never seen a Jean-Paul Belmondo film before this, but I quickly discovered just how likeable the guy was, and to me the most ingratiating aspect of his character was how fully his attention was locked on one thing, and one thing only: saving his girlfriend from kidnappers. He wasn’t a master spy or secret agent, or a high-ranking political figure ripe for a ransom plot, or even a reluctant super hero trying to save the world. He was just a regular guy who simply wanted his girlfriend back.
And I was completely taken by Françoise Dorléac, playing Agnès, who was just as entertaining as Belmondo, and who amusingly seemed more concerned about how Adrien felt about their relationship than the ever-present predicaments and dangers that surrounded her. To me, that was the most entertaining aspect of the story: watching Adrien work his way out of scrape after scrape, only to deal with a drugged and/or unpredictable Agnès in the interim. But trust me, if I had a girlfriend as cute and adventurous as she was, I’d chase her halfway around the world, too.
This was nothing short of fun, a lighthearted French-made treat with both Belmondo and Dorléac (the younger sister of Catherine Deneuve, by the way) supplying a healthy dose of endearing qualities that had you pulling for them all the way. The situations were often quite inventive (and like Keisha, I was reminded of the films of silent comedian Harold Lloyd), and though they bordered on outright goofy at times, I thought these moments fit well with the overall tone of the film, and thankfully never went too far overboard. If you like your action thrillers on the comic and playful side, with a colorful and festive Rio of the 1960s as a backdrop, then I’d say That Man from Rio is well worth a watch. (8/10)