Introducing... The French Film Festival

BIENVENUE and welcome to the 2007 French Film Festival UK, which this year berths for the first time at Leith's Ocean Terminal, where the Vue Cinema will host a number of screenings of new French films.

However, while the strong historical links between France and Edinburgh's port will be enhanced, the main focus of the three-week event, which begins next Thursday with a screening of Christian Vincent's charming comedy Four Stars (Quatre Etoiles), continues to fall on the Filmhouse, Lothian Road.

Four Stars is the first of 23 films to be shown at this year's festival, a highlight of which will be screenings of Michel Hazanavicius' spy-spoof, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies (OSS 117: Le Caire Nid d'Espions), featuring Special Agent OSS 117, France's answer to James Bond.

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In fact, OSS 117 predates his English counterpart by four years, author Jean Bruce's character first appearing in print in 1949 and eventually figuring in 265 novels and seven movies.

In Nest Of Spies, he pops up in Cairo, circa 1955, to monitor the Suez Canal, check up on the Brits and Soviets, burnish France's reputation, quell a fundament-alist rebellion and broker peace in the Middle East - think James Bond crossed with Austin Powers, with a little bit of The Naked Gun thrown in for good measure.

Like Bond, OSS 117 also has his own bevvy of beauties - enter 30-year-old actress Brnice Bjo, as Larmina El Akmar Betouche, an irresistible OSS agent.

Born in Argentina, Bjo is a woman of many cultures. Initially she spoke Spanish with a French accent and admits to having had a head start in the business - her father Miguel Bjo was a writer, director and producer.

"Coming from different cultures means that you are never sure exactly who you are or in what country you should be living. There is always one of your languages that you speak better than the other one," she says, ahead of her two appearances in the Capital - on April 25 at the Filmhouse and the following day at the Vue Cinema, Ocean Terminal, when she and Hazanavicius will introduce their film.

For OSS 117 Bejo undertook a rigorous keep-fit regime, she reveals. "I had to learn to dance and also work on stunts, especially in the fight scene with my co-actress Aure Attika. I liked my work on the film because it was totally different from anything else I had done previously.

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"It all takes place in the Fifties so a lot of attention went into the sets, the costumes and the lighting and even the way of talking.

"My role is a sort of James Bond girl, but she's intelligent. On the other hand OSS 117 [played by Jean Dujardin] is rather stupid," she laughs. "My character is very focused, very feminine and very glamorous. For once you won't see me in trainers and jeans, but in high heels."

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Unlike Bond's girls, Larmina is more than just window dressing. "Intellectually she is ahead of her times, but she doesn't want to break the rules or traditions. Yet she is the brain of the team. Larmina may be seen as a bit of an accessory but actually she is in the driving seat," says Bjo, who admits the role allowed her to "feel like those icons, Kim Novak and Audrey Hepburn that I have always dreamt about becoming one of these days."

She adds: "Besides giving lots of pleasure and laughter, the film is very stylish in a way that does not exist anymore in French comedy."

OSS117 Cairo: Nest Of Spies, Filmhouse, Lothian Road, April 25, 6pm and Vue Cinema, Ocean Terminal, April 26, 8.30pm, 5, 08712-240 240

The French Film Festival UK runs from Thursday until May 6. For full details of programme visit www.