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Now in his early 50s, Montreal university lecturer Remy (Remy Girard) is a divorced womaniser who loves life, even though - especially perhaps - now that he's facing death from cancer. His ex-wife, Louise (Dorothee Berryman) sends for their successful, London-based financier son Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau) whose relationship with Remy has become one based on silence. Their daughter is at sea and can't come ... They clash as soon as Sebastien arrives, but on finding his father in an underwhelming public ward, he uses his business skills - including how to buy services not otherwise available - to ensure the greatest possible comfort for his father, including the reunion of friends, past mistresses and some students. As these disparate characters gather round and talk, they evoke their passions and their fears, as Remy grows more philosophical with every moment closer to death.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Exceptional for its ability to be at once cynical and world weary yet full of the juices of a lust for life, Denys Arcand combines a sophisticated socio-political essay with characters whose friendships bounce off each other's differences. Acclaimed via festivals and awards, The Barbarian Invasions is an intelligent film, sure, but its earthiness and its absolute honesty make it also a deeply emotional one. Prepare to weep for all the right reasons.

The story outline is a mere distillation of the physical environment of this film, whereas the real power and the real interest comes from its complicated humans, who respond to their environment, their circumstances, their place in history and society with all the pain and laughter of the living. The cast is flawless, each one able to move us through their faults and their strengths. The father-son relationship is the main engine, but it's surrounded by a whole battery of emotional turbines.

Humour, whether darkly observant or skilfully witty, twines through the film like a confidently creeping ivy, growing out of the characters quite naturally. Into his melee of humanity, Arcand injects his prognosis of the decline of the American empire, an empire which views all outsiders as barbarians, and the September 11 terrorist attack as just one example of their encroachment.

With considerable anger, Arcand also paints a view of human history that is simply a series of horrors visited on one group of humans by another. This darkness is balanced with the hedonism that the characters enjoy, but the barbed wires of territorial divisions remain in place. Indeed, his most powerful point is made during a funny conversation between the entire group as they relax at a lakeside cottage, discussing the many isms, causes and chic leftist movements they all admired at one time or another. Intelligence has disappeared, and cretinism is the loathsome new state of affairs.

But then, Arcand takes us back into the warmth of the human condition with a deeply moving ending that strips away everything, leaving only the flame and pain and joy of human bondage as the final, absolute and indestructible part of being alive.

Published: August 26, 2004

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(Canada, 2003)

Invasions barbares, Les

CAST: Remy Girard, Dorothee Berryman, Stephane Rousseau, Marie-Jose Croze, Marina Hands, Johanne Marie Tremblay, Pierre Curzi, Yvas Jacques, Louise Portal, Dominique Michel, Mitsou Gelinas

DIRECTOR: Denys Arcand

SCRIPT: Denys Arcand

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes



DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century Pictures

DVD RELEASE: August 25, 2004

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