Reviews and notes
A delightfully preposterous thriller (the McGuffin is some stolen Amazonian treasure), wittier than any of the Bond spoofs that subsequently flooded the market and a good deal racier than Raiders of the Lost Ark
. Handsomely shot on location in Brazil, with Belmondo as the cheerfully indestructible hero who cliffhangs, climbs buildings, imitates Tarzan, parachutes almost into the jaws of a crocodile, and does his best to cope with the enchantingly unpredictable Dorléac (late lamented sister of Catherine Deneuve).
- Tom Milne, Time Out London. ,
Philippe de Broca's long-esteemed L'homme de Rio
mingles an exuberant sense of cinema with a relish of the ridiculous. It is a parody-thriller of the first water, visually invigorating and mentally both relaxing and allusive. As the oaf-hero (superbly depicted by Jean-Paul Belmondo) pursues his girl and her kidnappers through Paris, Rio, Brasilia and certain reaches of the Amazon, his non-stop predicaments bear an affectionate resemblance to the archetypal 'silents': to the pace and inventiveness of Keaton's Navigator
, and the vertiginous actuality-absurdity of Harold Lloyd. From the sound era it is possible to catch an echo of James Bond in a murderous speedboat bit, but more often the kicks are Hitchcockian.
While proceeding zanily from one preposterous situation to the next, and treating the 'plot' with cheerful contempt, there is still a fundamental stability to de Broca's design, which springs from a Hitchworthy appreciation of contrasts, and especially of the dark deed perpetrated in bright sunlight. A trail of multi-coloured balloons gives place to poison-dart death in the lunchtime emptiness of the Musee de l'Homme; in Brasilia, where ultra-modem buildings stand in instant contrast to a vastness of red earth, the echoes of Belmondo's racing feet are followed by the silence of the dust beneath him, and then, while the sun blazes down on the redness and the camera makes a superlative sweep, three killer-cars converge on him from different directions: this is a cinematic occasion that can stand comparison with the yellow-filtered panic of the 'crop-dusting' episode in North by Northwest
Contrasts are repeatedly pointed: black polish on white shoes: lyric sweep of Copacobana beach as Belmondo teeters high above it on the wall of an hotel: glamour-silhouette of a shack that looks romantic as all getout in the balmy night until we see the scruffy interior shot.
The camera of Sechan has been given every opportunity to enjoy the real settings without impeding the anti-realistic essence. His pictures of the sea by night are especially agreeable, and his fast-moving progress ahead of the cycle-borne Belmondo through an underpass tunnel to Orly is cinema-simplicity raised to the level of art. Colour is both revered and mocked: at a desperate moment when no conveyance is to hand, the heroine specifies that she would like a pink car with green stars on it, and immediately de Broca cuts to such a car, with Belmondo at the wheel and the girl beside him and no rational explanation of how they got there (one of the tangential jests is that such expensive areas of the earth are traversed without ready cash), and later the pink-and-green colour scheme is repeated in a parachute that carries Belmondo from a capricious plane to the jaws of a crocodile. (And dig that close shot of the crocodile's eye).
Belmondo's own contribution is considerable. The larkish demeanour is hand-in-glove with impeccable technique and keen timing. To see him run, knees up high in childlike desperation, is to recapture a basic filmic pleasure; and clowning is merged with the talent we know already, to an indefinable and diverting degree, when, at the height of a burlesque-western saloon brawl, he staggers punch-drunkenly towards a glass of liquor, drinks it down and is instantly revitalized and into the fray again.
By now, of course, we expect the best from Belmondo in whatever he essays. The surprise of the film, to me, is de Broca, a director who has left me unenthusiastic through Les Jeux de l'Amour
(shown here as Playing at Love
, and not to be confused with Doniol-Valcroze's estimable L'Eau a la Bouche
, which was called The Game of Love
in the UK: thus do the re-titlers confound one another, to say-nothing of their potential audiences), L'amant de cinq jours
), and his previous and fitful film with Belmondo, Cartouche
(Swords of Blood
Now, with That Man From Rio
, he strikes me as a man transformed, a true man of the cinema, aware of it and with it. Quite apart from the sheer pleasure it affords, this de Broca work is an important study-piece in respect of its technique, its use of locations and the effects it obtains under conditions far removed from the routine efficiencies of studios.
- Gordon Gow, Films and Filming, June 1965.
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