The Barbarian Invasions

Seventeen years after Denys Arcand arrived on the international scene with his BIG CHILL-esque drama THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE, the Quebecois auteur reunited much of the original cast for a belated sequel. But instead of a tightly knit ensemble piece, this film is focused on a single character: Rémy (Rémy Girard), the history professor whose marriage...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Seventeen years after Denys Arcand arrived on the international scene with his BIG CHILL-esque drama THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE, the Quebecois auteur reunited much of the original cast for a belated sequel. But instead of a tightly knit ensemble piece, this film is focused on a single character: Rémy (Rémy Girard), the history professor whose marriage to Louise (Dorothée Berryman) collapsed under the weight of his continual adultery. It's been 15 years since Louise threw him out, but she's once again at his side, at least temporarily: Rémy is seriously ill, and the prognosis doesn't look good. Louise contacts their son, Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau), now a hugely successful market operator in London, but Sébastien is somewhat reluctant to rush to his father's bedside. Sébastien blames his father for destroying his family, while Rémy, an old socialist, decries his son's all-around lack of culture and slavish devotion to capitalism. But when Sébastien arrives in Quebec with his fiancée, Gaëlle (Marina Hands), and sees the overcrowded conditions at his father's hospital, he agrees first to find Rémy a private room, then gather together all his old friends. Sébastien bribes a hospital administrator and the thuggish hospital workers union to ready a room on an unused lower floor, and once Rémy is installed in his new digs, his friends arrive: Pierre (Pierre Curzi), Rémy's colleague at the university and a fellow philanderer; gay art history professor Claude (Yves Jacques), who now lives in Rome with his lover (Toni Cecchinato); Diane (Louise Portal), the kinky sex addict who currently enjoys the attentions of a sexy cowboy; and historian Dominique (Dominique Michel), whose theory of conjugal bliss lent DECLINE its title and whose loose lips ended Rémy's marriage. Also on hand is Nathalie (Marie-Josée Croze), Diane's estranged, drug-addicted daughter, who agrees to supply Rémy with the one thing that, besides his friends, can ease his pain: heroin. Many Cannes watchers were surprised when the 2003 jury awarded Arcand the festival's coveted best screenplay award (Croze was the film's other big winner, picking up the prize for best actress). But if the banter lacks the often brilliant and erudite — if showy — sparkle of its predecessor, the acting is still first-rate, and the film will be best enjoyed by fans eager to spend another 90 minutes with a group of old friends. (In French, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Seventeen years after Denys Arcand arrived on the international scene with his BIG CHILL-esque drama THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE, the Quebecois auteur reunited much of the original cast for a belated sequel. But instead of a tightly knit ensemble pi… (more)

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