I went way off the board looking for a movie to watch this weekend, and found That Man from Rio (1964), a quasi-Hitchcockian adventure travelogue that thinks it’s devilishly charming, but is not. It does catch the eye, though, thanks to stunning cinematography that showcases the amazing scenery of Brazil.
When a valuable statue goes missing from a Paris museum, it quickly becomes apparent someone’s attempting to reassemble the set to which it belongs. The only person who knows where the second statue is hidden is Agnès Villermosa (Françoise Dorléac), the daughter of one of the scientists who originally found the statues. Naturally, the thieves kidnap her to help them find it…which prompts her bumbling, zany fiancé Adrien Dufourquet (Jean-Paul Belmondo) to trail after her. He follows them across the ocean to Brazil, racing chaotically to rescue her and solve the mystery.
This is one of those fast-paced, cheesy, Technicolor movies of the 1960s that desperately tries to cash in on the formula of North By Northwest. Alas, its lacks that movie’s clever charms, and worse, the film’s gender politics make Hitchcock look like Anita Sarkeesian. Adrien’s erratic heroics display a sociopathic disregard for any innocent bystander in his wake—24′s Jack Bauer by way of Jerry Lewis, a colossal comedic misfire. The plot, meanwhile, is basically a MacGuffin surrounded by contrivances.
It’s a mess, but kind of an attractive mess, thanks to the appealing Dorléac and some eye-catching visuals. The breathtaking vistas of Rio de Janeiro and, more interestingly, the then-nascent city of Brasília provide a vivid widescreen backdrop; it’s a neat time capsule. It also has an erratic stream-of-consciousness flow that does have infectious, anything-goes plot turns, like Adrien’s fast friendship with an adorable shoeshine boy named Sir Winston (Ubiracy De Oliveira), who randomly becomes his right-hand man. Belmondo is no Cary Grant, but I grew to respect his physical presence as he enacts a number of spectacularly dangerous high-rise stunts and realistic and painful-looking fight scenes. On points, this one failed for me, but it was at least weird and different enough to keep me diverted while I was folding my laundry, possessing enough quirky assets to make it a curious relic.