The Barbarian Invasions
Directed by Denys Arcand. Starring Rémy Girard, Stéphane Rousseau, Dorothée Berryman, Louise Portal, Dominique Michel, Yves Jacques, Pierre Curzi, Marie-Josée Croze. (2003, R, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 5, 2004
This French-Canadian film received the award for Best Foreign Film at the recent Oscars ceremony. Denys Arcand, the director of 1986's comedy The Decline of the American Empire has made a reunion movie of sorts. He gathered all the characters from Decline and the actors who played them for this contemporary story about a group of old friends, intellectuals all, who reunite at the hospital bedside of one of their group who is dying. The movie is all about their conversations and relationships as they share thoughts and memories about the past, the future, and everything in between. Picking up the characters after some 17 years' screen absence, we find that Louise (Berryman) has divorced her womanizing husband Rémy (Girard), although she still remains close with him. When Rémy becomes hospitalized with a terminal illness, she calls their son Sebastien (Rousseau), who has made a successful career in London as a financial manager. He has gotten as far away as he can from his parents and their university professor/intellectual cronies. Though there seems to be no love lost between Sebastien and Rémy, once he arrives Sebastien bribes and pulls strings to make his father more comfortable – getting the patient out of the hallway and into a private room and procuring for him black-market drugs. Meanwhile, the old gang from Decline reassemble and reminisce and reassess their youth – moving from the hospital room to the private country home where Rémy wishes to die. There’s no need to be familiar with The Decline of the American Empire in order to enjoy The Barbarian Invasions. The characters stand on their own; although now in their 50s they talk about sex more than they participate in it. The Barbarian Invasions is a movie about conversation and simple observations. Barbed and funny comments from these all-too-aware characters pepper the whole movie, and the Canadian health care system takes more than its share of knocks. An enjoyable film with all-around solid performances, The Barbarian Invasions is a sharp-witted delight.