The Barbarian Invasions (2003) / Drama-Comedy
aka Les Invasions Barbares
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, language, and drug content
Running Time: 112 min.
Cast: Remy Girard, Stephane Rousseau, Dorothee Berryman, Louise Portal, Yves Jacques, Pierre Curzi, Marie-Josee Croze, Marina Hands, Toni Cecchinato, Mitsou Gelinas
Director: Denys Arcand
Screenplay: Denys Arcand
Review published August 4, 2004
Seventeen years ago, French-Canadian auteur Denys Arcand (Stardom) impressed with his critically acclaimed The Decline of the American Empire. In The Barbarian Invasions, Arcand has reunited the cast of that film in this sequel, although you needn't be familiar with the film from seventeen years ago to appreciate it. In a wise move, Arcand tells his tale with knowledge that many in the audience will be watching these characters for the first time, and delivers a funny and sad commentary on love, life and death that resonates far deeper than the simple surface narrative would imply.
As the story goes, Remy (Girard) is literally on his death bed, visited by his family, some of whom are estranged. Among them is his son Sebastien (Rousseau), a self-made millionaire, who puts aside his difference to see that his father's last days are spent well. With a terminal disease leaving no doubt, Sebastien tries to secure some heroin to ease the pain and keep up Remy's spirits, while the rest of the family and friends stay by his side and comfort him.
Buoyed by fine performances all around, Arcand's film is crisp and cutting, with terrific characterizations and complex motivations that are always right on target. While the subject matter is serious, the tone of the film never jerks the tears, and the morality is never played in obvious fashion, delivering everything it has to say in the subtlest ways possible. Wonderfully satirical and intelligent, it's also one of the more life affirming films about death you're likely to see. Recommended for anyone looking for thoughtful fare without the pretentious overhead.
©2004 Vince Leo