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1 item from 2003

Les Invasions Barbares/The Barbarian Invasions (Cannes)

22 May 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

In Competition

Seventeen years after firmly establishing his filmmaking reputation with the internationally acclaimed "The Decline of the American Empire," Canada's Denys Arcand has reunited the film's cast for "Les Invasions Barbares"("The Barbarian Invasions") with richly rewarding results.

Last in Cannes in 2000 with the festival closer "Stardom", a strained satire about the cult of celebrity that took pot shots at an easy target, Arcand returns in top form.

While "Les Invasions Barbares" retains much of the astutely observed acerbic wit that was a hallmark of his 1986 survey of male-female sexual mores, the new film finds the writer-director with quite a bit more on his plate.

An eloquent, achingly reflective taking of stock, the picture is unmistakably Arcand's most personal to date and, coming near the end of a Cannes run that has been woefully lacking substance, it would have to be considered a serious Palme d'Or contender.

Arcand wastes little time in getting to the heart of the matter: College professor Remy (Remy Girard) is lying in a hospital bed with a terminal illness and while his lothario days may finally be behind him, there are still plenty of other things that manage to get him all fired up.

Chief among them is his thorny relationship with his estranged son, Sebastien (Quebec humorist Stephane Rousseau), a very successful financial mover and shaker who has flown in from his London base to take care of his father's affairs and support his long-divorced mother (Dorothee Berryman).

Using his business savvy to cut through a mass of bureaucratic red tape, Sebastien finds that a little greasing of the right palms gets the job done when it comes to getting his father a private room and, subsequently, a regular supply of heroin to help ease his dad's pain along with someone to administer it (Marie-Josee Croze), the junkie daughter of Remy's old friend and ex-lover Diane (Louise Portal).

Meanwhile, Remy's old gang has come back to visit him, with the passage of time finding them older but not necessarily wiser in respect to getting a handle on the meaning of life.

The specter of mortality may be hanging over his characters, but this is no ponderous disease-of-the-week , weep-fest. Among the many subjects that get caught in the sharply satirical crossfire are the Catholic Church, Canada's overextended health care system, labor unions, immigration, and law and order, just to name a few.

Arcand also manages to work the matter of 9/11 into the mix, without its inclusion feeling opportunistic or forced, as has been the case with a number of other recent films.

His ensemble, meanwhile, shines ever brightly. Led by Girard, who turns in a feisty, fiery performance that is more alive than most of those played by perfectly healthy characters, the rest of the cast, including Johanne Marie Tremblay as a non-judgmental Catholic hospital nurse plus "Decline" originals Pierre Curzi, Yves Jacques and Dominique Michel, are uniformly splendid.

Behind the camera, cinematographer Guy Dufaux, production designer Francois Seguin, editor Isabelle Dedieu and composer Pierre Aviat work beautifully in unison to make Arcand's little meditation on life and death at the turn of the 21st Century as aesthetically pleasing as it is affecting.

Les Invasions Barbares


A Cinemaginaire and Pyramide presentation


Director-screenwriter: Denys Arcand

Producers: Denise Robert, Daniel Louis

Director of photography: Guy Dufaux

Production designer: Francois Seguin

Editor: Isabelle Dedieu

Costume designer: Denis Sperdouklis

Music: Pierre Aviat


Remy: Remy Girard

Sebastien: Stephane Rousseau

Nathalie: Marie-Josee Croze

Gaelle: Marinia Hands

Louise: Dorothee Berryman

Soeur Constance: Johanne Marie Tremblay

Pierre: Pierre Curzi

Claude: Yves Jacques

Diane: Louise Portal

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 99 minutes »

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1 item from 2003

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