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3 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Barbarian Invasions, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Sex, politics, religion. Discuss."
5 stars

It has no ‘2’ or ‘Too’ in the title, but comedy-drama The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares) is a sequel. French-Canadian writer-director Denys Arcand is revisiting characters he created 17 years earlier in the art-house hit The Decline of the American Empire (Le Déclin de l'empire Américain). I’ll confess now to not having ever seen Decline. Let me reassure those of you in the same position that The Barbarian Invasions is a stand-alone work.

Arcand tackles the big issues with dexterity, dropping them into his scenes with casual aplomb:

Death. Rémy (Rémy Girard), 50-something history professor, is hospitalised with cancer. Confronted by his mortality, he looks for meaning in his past. Has his life amounted to nothing?

Family. At his bedside are ex-wife Louise (Dorothée Berryman) and his estranged son Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau), an obscenely rich London financier.

Friendship. Sébastien gathers Rémy’s old circle of friends from Decline at the hospital, including two former mistresses.

Politics. Rémy and his academic colleagues have spent their lives “worshipping isms”. Their animated conversation ranges across capitalism, unions, bureaucracy, globalisation, the health system, religion, history and education. The title is partly a reference to the September 2001 terrorist attacks. These crimes shocked America because they came from within the borders - the “barbarians” had “invaded”.

Arcand is a gifted filmmaker and storyteller, adroitly balancing issues with character development. His Rémy is an irascible charmer, an aging liberal and self-professed “sensual socialist”. But ideas have ruled his world at the expense of his family. Sébastien is his personal and political opponent - a puritanical capitalist. His preference for technological gadgets over books leaves Rémy aghast. Sébastien is a man of action - he uses his wealth to play the system to his advantage. Rémy rails against it. “I voted for Medicare, and I’ll accept the consequences”, he declares stubbornly of his crowded, uncomfortable hospital room. Sébastien buys the best medical treatment and bribes the hospital administration into providing his father with a secluded room of his own.

Casting a comedian (Rousseau) as Sébastien pays off. It’s a sober role, but Sébastien is never boring. Rousseau leaves you in no doubt of the capacity for warmth beneath Sébastien’s conservative exterior. Besides Rousseau and Girard, the other major performance is courtesy of Marie-Josée Croze as Nathalie, the junkie who supplies Rémy with pain-killing heroin (the 2003 Cannes jury awarded her the Best Actress prize). I also responded to Johanne-Marie Tremblay’s warm-hearted hospital Sister.

Arcand’s touch is so light and nimble it would be easy to underestimate his skill. His rich dialogue is one of the film’s chief pleasures but the film is not dull to look at. Arcand and cinematographer Guy Dufaux keep the camera mobile and the images fluid. The streets and neighbourhoods of Montreal are rendered tangible in poetic, wintry light.

The Barbarian Invasions is a series of conversations; many short scenes conclude with a gentle fade-to-black. The cumulative effect is of gathering memories. This delicate movie is a triumph of small moments.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8349&reviewer=104
originally posted: 03/30/04 22:18:55
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This film is available for download or online viewing at CinemaNow.com For more in the CinemaNow.com series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/27/08 proper amateur film critic Sweet and poignant, perceptive and true 5 stars
11/11/04 paul fernandez another great father and son story...entertaining and witty... 4 stars
9/22/04 denny enjoyable; can't find the first one of dvd 4 stars
7/18/04 Amerigo Vespukey Great review, Perrone! Less talk, more rock hippies!! 2 stars
6/25/04 Graham Smug, sugary, pseudy and featuring the worst case of 'movie cancer' since Love Story. 1 stars
6/17/04 T. Maj Yay! A film for people over 25! Better than first film, too. 4 stars
5/22/04 Ray Breahtaking!!! 5 stars
4/30/04 john exquisite, touching, real, witty, lusty, melancholy, fun, art 5 stars
4/18/04 BAH Fabulous, moving adult, grown up movie 5 stars
3/17/04 Reini Urban Worse than the first, easy book, but okay. 4 stars
2/22/04 gökhan aylan best movie I have ever watced 5 stars
11/24/03 Boombah Baby Good Canadian flick. 4 stars
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  21-Nov-2003 (R)
  DVD: 13-Jul-2004



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