Film Reviews

That Man From Rio: Toast the Return of de Broca's Globe-Trotting Parody

Jean-Paul Belmondo in a white dinner jacket. There. That should be enough to sell you on Philippe de Broca's 1964 crime caper-spoof That Man From Rio, but if for some reason it's not, let's throw in Jean-Paul Belmondo on a motorcycle, Jean-Paul Belmondo elbowing his way onto a flight from Paris to Rio de Janeiro with no ticket or passport, and Jean-Paul Belmondo performing his own stunts — he scrambles across multiple stories' worth of construction scaffolding with "what, me worry?" aplomb. Still not sold? Two more words: Françoise Dorléac. And if that doesn't do it, there's no hope.

Dorléac, as fans of Jacques Demy's euphoric musical romance Young Girls of Rochefort will know, is the sultry, flirty redhead (and sister of Catherine Deneuve) whose career was cut short when she was killed in a car accident in 1967. In That Man From Rio, she and Belmondo make a formidable romantic pair, driving one another mad, even as they prove that they're clearly made for each other. Belmondo's Adrien is an army private looking forward to enjoying an eight-day leave: He's come to Paris to visit his girl, Dorléac's Agnès, arriving just in time to see her being kidnapped by art thieves. What the thugs are really after is the last of a trio of ancient South American statues that may hold mystical secrets, and Agnès, the daughter of a renowned anthropologist who died in the service of his profession, just may have a bead on the precious tchotchke.

Adrien follows the kidnappers first to Rio and then on to Brasília, giving chase by land, sea and air. At one he point even swings from a jungle vine. If it all sounds unaccountably mad, it is. That Man From Rio is a crazy delight, a stylish, early-'60s pastiche that folds in every adventure-movie cliché you've ever seen, and possibly invents a few new ones. De Broca may be best known, at least among people of a certain age, for his worst film, the 1966 "crazy people are beautiful" novelty King of Hearts, a staple of college film societies in the 1980s. Here, though, he orchestrates all this mishegas with verve and wicked wit, and in vibrant, wide-screen color, no less. The too-muchness is the fun, though de Broca still finds ways to let the charm of his actors shine through: A scene in which the very proper Parisian Agnès dances barefoot with a group of adorable Brazilian kids makes the most of Dorléac's dazzling, impish energy. And you haven't lived until you've seen Belmondo's Adrien come this close to parachuting into the jaws of a peckish, waiting crocodile. Everybody loves Belmondo — just not always for the right reasons.

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Stephanie Zacharek was the principal film critic at the Village Voice from 2013 to 2015. She is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and of the National Society of Film Critics. In 2015 Zacharek was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

Her work also appeared in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press, Dallas Observer and OC Weekly.