Dir: Alexandre Courtès
A Very Secret Service, also known by its original French title ‘Au service de la France’, is a French spy comedy-drama created by Jean-François Halin. Halin wrote the show along with Claire Lemaréchal and Jean-André Yerlès. The theme music, which beautifully sets the tone of the show, is composed by Nicolas Godin, who is one half of the French music duo ‘Air’.
‘It’s clever, it’s stylish and it’s wildly entertaining, what more could you ask for?’
The year is 1960, the location Paris, a young man named André Merlaux (brilliantly played by French actor Hugo Becker) has accepted an ambiguous summons from the French secret service. They offer him the chance to become a French Secret Service Agent, which he eagerly accepts. The show follows Merlaux as he gets to grips with international espionage. Becker gives a fantastic and believable performance as the naïve Merlaux.
Three more seasoned agents; Jacquard (Karim Barras) head of affairs in Algiers, Moulinier (Bruno Paviot) in charge of African Affairs and Calot (Jean-Édouard Bodziak) who covers the Eastern bloc are reluctantly ordered to mentor him by Moïse (Christophe Kourotchkine) the man in charge. They are joined by a number of other colourful characters.
Set in an era in which the world was rapidly changing; politically, culturally and socially. France was at the head of these changes with its political conflicts, mainly with its then African colony of Algeria, and experiencing rapid decolonisation. The first wave of feminism was hitting its peak, cinema was becoming risky and experimental, and people were becoming more sexually free. ‘A Very Secret Service’ brilliantly captures the instability of France in the 1960s. It exposes the misogynist attitudes towards women in the work force, prejudices and the inefficiency and outdated methods of the French government at the time, all through smart and heavy satire.
The French miniseries picked up by Netflix consists of twelve, twenty minute episodes and is one of the most cleverly entertaining shows I have seen this year. My thoughts after watching it were that they will have to do a second season, which is coming in November 2017. So if you are looking for a new show to watch at the end of a long day with a glass of wine then I recommend Halin’s ‘A Very Secret Service’.
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