A nurse and her surgeon-lover are part of a resistance movement in 1940s Czechoslovakia. When they are discovered, her lover flees and she must find a place to hide. A patient whose life ... See full summary »
In Montreal, the wanderings of two urban homeless, Marcel, an old timer and Joseph, who just landed in the big city. Both philosophers and resourceful nice bums roam the streets of the ... See full summary »
Ovide Plouffe has married Rita. She still tries to attract other men even after their marriage. Unhappy Ovide feels for Marie - a young French woman he had met. But his catholic background ... See full summary »
In this belated sequel to 'The Decline of the American Empire', 50-something Montreal college professor, Remy, learns that he is dying of liver cancer. He decides to make amends meet to his friends and family before he dies. He first tries to made peace with his ex-wife Louise, who asks their estranged son Sebastian, a successful businessman living in London, to come home. Sebastian makes the impossible happen, using his contacts and disrupting the entire Canadian system in every way possible to help his father fight his terminal illness to the bitter end, while he also tries to reunite his former friends, Pierre, Alain, Dominique, Diane, and Claude to see their old friend before he passes on. Written by
It is the first sequel ever to win the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscars. See more »
Remy was supposed to be taken to a hospital in Burlington, Vermont in a van in the company of his son, Sebastian. However, when the van arrives at the US border, the two huge highway signs clearly say Interstate 91 and US Route 5-Derby Line, indicating that it is actually the Stanstead-Derby Line border crossing. Normally, people do not take that route to get from Montreal to Burlington, which is located right on I-89, but would go via Philipsburg, QC and take Interstate 89 instead. See more »
Contrary to belief, the 20th century wasn't that bloody. It's agreed that wars caused 100 million deaths. Add 10 million for the Russian gulags. The Chinese camps, we'll never know, but say 20 million. So 130, 145 million dead. Not all that impressive. In the 16th century, the Spanish and Portuguese managed, without gas chambers or bombs, to slaughter 150 million Indians in Latin America. With axes! That's a lot of work, sister. Even if they had church support, it was an achievement....
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I have never been a fan of Canadian cinema because it was generally soaked with the sort of contrived politically correct sexual and social attitudes of which the conformist majority was already a proponent. Thus, Canadian films tended to be "pop-Canadian-culture" films about political correctness.
Of course there were exceptions: Atom Egoyan's "Exotica" or "The Sweet Hereafter," or some of Cronenberg's more experimental films like "Naked Lunch" possessed some of that existential starkness that attracted me to those films. Nonetheless my expectations generally remained low, which is why Denys Arcand's great "Barbarian Invasions" was such a pleasant surprise.
The film is about three things: the disillusionment with socialism, the growing disillusionment with capitalism, and the death of a man who happened to have been a socialist professor in Montreal, while his son a millionaire.
Remy is dying of cancer. He is dying in a Montreal hospital, which in a five minute scene is established as the horror of socialist Canadian health care. Remy's ex-wife calls upon his estranged, well-off son, Sebastien to come visit and take care of his dying father. What follows is both a comic and a touching critique of the achievements of socialism. The film also suggests that the increasingly nihilist capitalism, or money, seems to be the only way to get around in this world. Money gets Remy out of an overcrowded ward, it gets him the most accurate medical tests and the "painkillers" he needs to survive.
But "Barbarian Invasions" is critical of both systems: there is a beautiful scene where an auctioneer visits an old Montreal priest who takes her to the basement where he apparently has statuettes and chalices he wants to sell. The girl examines them and tells him that they would be of more value to the people at the church than on the world market. The priest remarks starkly: "In other words, they are worthless." Capitalism, consequently, is as anti-spiritual as socialism was.
However, there are far more levels to "Barbarian Invasions" than mere politics. In fact, the film's goal is really to scream "Politics Aside!" so that we can make room for the man who is dying. Because Remy is not a quiet, subdued man. He is a lusty man a la Sabbath from Roth's "Sabbath's Theater" who loves life, women, wine and radical socialism. But now, that all those things are distant from him, he is forced to question his life, his relationships with his friends and his estranged children.
What follows is a profound and touching elegy to the stupidities of youth, the mistakes in life, the regret and acceptance of old age - in other words of humanity. In the end, though Remy may be disillusioned with socialism, and definitely not all-too-happy with capitalism, facing death somehow robs politics of their significance. Not to say that politics aren't significant in life, because they pervade everything we do and see and so on, but bare, unadulterated life shines through for Remy. In the end, "Barbarian Invasions" is about death, and dying with dignity and how that dignity is achieved. While neither capitalism nor socialism offer it, it can be found at a more basic, human level.
It's ironic, as a side-note, that this film came out roughly at the same time as Bertolucci's "The Dreamers," which is essentially a contemplation on the idealism and romanticism of French socialism and the "free love" culture of the 60s. I found Bertolucci's film much less profound than his greater ones - it used an affair between two siblings and an American closed off in an apartment for several days as a metaphor for the sixties. It ended rather tragically, but unrealistically - it tried to convince us that people got out from their cloistered "apartments" (read mentalities) and went to the streets to protest. What "Barbarian Invasions" tells us is that the protesters on the street were still really in that apartment, cloistered from reality.
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