The Decline of the American Empire (1986) Poster

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Cinema at its best!
hesketh2712 April 2002
Each time I see this film, I know how truly wonderful cinema can be at its best. This film, which amazingly is 16 years old (don't know where the time went - frightening!!) is still as fresh, witty and engrossing as it ever was. The story revolves about a group of academics, getting ready to attend a dinner party, the men and women separately(prior to the dinner) discussing with each other their lives loves hopes and fears - sounds dull doesn't it? Well dont you believe it!! Considering its such a dialogue based film, the time flies by due to the superb performances by all involved. Yves Jacques is outstanding as the gay character, whose facial expressions and body language in the film convey what only an actor of the finest calibre could. Louise Portal as the unattached woman longing for a meaningful relationship is also worth a mention amongst the cast. I enjoyed this film so much, that I turned my rusty 'o' level French into fluency so that I could appreciate other French language movies fully, prompted my first visit of several to Montreal where once I actually, believe it or not, bumped into Remy Girard (one of the actors) in the street and started a lasting love of non-English speaking /and or art house movies when previously I had only watched popular box office. I can't guarantee you will love this movie as much as I do, but if you approach it with an open mind, I am sure that you will thoroughly enjoy it. By the way, its about time this movie was released on DVD, especially when you consider some of the junk which has!!!
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A serious comedy
bandw24 July 2006
If you do not like dialog driven movies, then you will not like this, since it consists primarily of talk about sex with some general philosophizing added. With "The Decline of the American Empire" I don't know if director Arcand has served up a sweet dessert with a core of bitter almonds or a drink of Angostura bitters sweetened with a sugar cube. I lean toward the latter.

I liked the leisurely pace of the opening credits which play over a long tracking shot moving down a long concourse terminating in our meeting two of the main characters - Dominique and Diane. Diane, a journalist for "Writers Today," is interviewing Dominique about her new book, "Changing Concepts of Happiness." Right up front we are introduced to the main thesis which is that a society is in decline when it becomes more concerned with individual happiness and instant gratification rather than with the general good. In such a society people resist sacrifice and marriages break down as people pursue personal happiness. What happens in the rest of the movie illustrates the point.

In short order we are introduced to two more women, Louise and Danielle, who are working out in a gym. They are joined by Diane and Dominique and, during their workouts, the women discuss in intimate detail some of their past sexual exploits.

Then we are introduced to four men (Remy, Pierre, Alain, Claude) who are preparing an elegant dinner for the four women we have already met. Remy, Pierre, Claude are faculty in the history department of a Quebec university and Alain is a student. Dominique is the chairman of the department, Diane is a teaching assistant there, Louise is the wife of Remy and Danielle is Pierre's partner and an undergraduate, so it's a pretty close-knit bunch of intellectuals. As the men prepare the meal they talk endlessly about their sexual exploits as well, but, as can be imagined, the tone of their conversation is a bit different from the women's. We are clearly well into the post sexual revolution era as much adultery is confessed and sexual fantasies revealed, and Claude's homosexuality is totally accepted. It is an ironic twist that the men are preparing dinner and the women are in the gym, *but* the women are in the gym so that they can be more sexually attractive to men.

I asked myself why I found the men's banter more entertaining than what I have overheard many times in men's locker rooms, and the answer is that it is witty and literate rather than crude and unimaginative. Perhaps more importantly all the actors seem to be having such fun and deliver their lines with such enthusiasm that it rubs off. Also, while "The Decline of the American Empire" is no "Big Night," the dinner preparations and ultimate product are not without interest. Unless you are a gourmet cook, you will learn, as I did, about "vesiga," "velouté," "coulibiac," and "mousseline."

And there are some special treats like when the four men act out a little dance about how they have to engage in that activity to please their women. While dancing they give voice to topics that they pretend interest in, for the same purpose. Their dance is clever, tightly choreographed, and hilarious.

The musical score is suitably highbrow, with a little help from Handel and Francois Dompierre.

So, why do I think that "The Decline of the American Empire" is ultimately depressing? Because it illustrates too well the destructive effects of the selfish pursuit of personal happiness, particularly with regard to sexual gratification. None of the relationships here is stable. And the philosophizing at the end espouses a cynical pessimism that intellectuals seem particularly good at. There is discussion to the effect that people should speak about what they know, and that's it. For example, "the Pope knows all about masturbation and prostate ailments. He can talk about that - and the CIA. Don't underestimate the Pope." The group goes on to skewer Marx, Freud, Jung, sociologists, psychologists, and even themselves. They quote Wittgenstein to justify some of their behavior: "Our only certainty is to act with our bodies." Academics, you gotta love 'em.

If you go on to see the sequel, "The Barbarian Invasions" (same actors, same characters, seventeen years later) you will see that Remy's life is a metaphor for the more general thesis expounded in "The Decline of the American Empire." Each movie stands alone, but each benefits from having seen the other.
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Personal Luck Addiction
zolaaar25 June 2007
The title sounds like as if it comes from Ancient Rome, and in a very galvanized way, this witty-sarcastic tragicomedy from Canada has something to do with it: The easier is life, the looser are the dos. And that is why during a country house weekend stay all the participating intellectual bourgeois charmers, who usually teach history and write books, waffle about sex, sex and sex, while they kick at the fitness center (the women) or prepare a fish plate in the kitchen (the men).

With perfidious lust Denys Arcand contra-dots male and female sex fantasies. When you listen to the gent club between stove and sink, your ears seem to fall off. When you hear the rants of the lady squad between sauna and bodybuilding, the ears of the gents ought to fall off. However, after the gender cliques unite at the table for dinner, a more complicated inner life becomes visible beneath all these ludicrous orgasm rants from before. Friends came together here who are kind to, who lie to, who hurt each other. Bitterness and resignation, but also safety and tolerance remain in the autumn dawn. And after all, it's a film of a verbally disarming sexual humour, adorably acted and with gentle ironies of absurd experiences of life: The human being is multifaceted. Simple are only theories.
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Power Meal
cestmoi21 November 2003
This is an extraordinary, in the very French (this is French Canadian,) slice of life film. Fidelity, infidelity, values, intellectuality, deceit, love, mortality, frienship beautifully explored by a great ensemble playing a great script with heart, no pretension, and to great result. This is one of those "trust me" films, almost inexplicable in its gathering power. Fine art, this.
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Man's propensity for self deception is unquenchable
AlsExGal15 June 2017
This is a very well done French-Canadian film about eight friends meeting for a dinner party out in the country. Three middle-aged men and a one young man are already at the manor where the dinner will take place, preparing the meal and discussing their sex lives. The remaining party guests, three middle-aged women and one young woman, are spending the day at the gym, exercising and discussing their sex lives.

Eventually they meet up at the country manor for dinner, and the conversation continues. While this may sound like not much happens, the film is never boring, and the direction by Denys Arcand keeps the viewer visually interested. I'm also keeping the character descriptions purposely vague, as their relationships to one another are revealed slowly as the film progresses. The dialogue is frank, funny and sharp, and all eight characters are fully-drawn human beings. I especially like the notion that these eight characters who seem to speak non-stop and at times overshare in the extreme, can't seem to honestly communicate when it matters most in their lives.

The title refers to a historical adage that when members of a given society begin to think about their own individual happiness above every other concern, that society is doomed. The characters' romantic navel-gazing and at times destructive pursuit of happiness seems to signal our own societal sunset. But don't let that heavy thought steer you away from the film, as it's brilliantly acted and well worth a look.

The sequel, "The Barbarian Invasions", made 17 years later, is also very worthwhile.
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Witty and Entertaining
DanB-410 December 2003
For many years, this movie ranked in my all time top ten. Over time, my affection for it has dropped, but I still value it greatly. It is a wordy movie about sexual politics of all kinds and human relationships. I have always felt that most of the characters in this film feel a need to justify relationships that they should not be in.

The story is simple - a group of men prepare dinner for a group of women who are at a club working out. While in separate locations, they are free to talk about their sexual appetites, exploits and conquests. The female conversations are particularly funny. Eventually, the women arrive and dinner commences, an unexpected guest shows up and eventually, secrets are revealed.

Decline of the American Empire is Denys Arcand's best film, and at the time, the best ever to come out of Canada. (That crown now firmly belongs to Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter). It seems a little dated today, but if you can handle subtitles, and if you like movies with lots of dialogue about sex and human relationships, it is a worthy rental. ***1/2 out of ****.
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This one really picks up steam as it goes along!
christ-728 October 2003
Another outstanding work from Denys Arcand! You definitely have to have a taste for dialogue-driven stuff for this, but if you have the patience you will be rewarded. In the first 20 minutes I thought it might be just another analysis of the male-female relationship dynamic. But it surprised me with a few twists and of course some outstanding acting. I can't believe this is the same Remy Girard from the Les Boys movies. BTW, this film IS available on DVD, as are many other Quebec films featured on IMDB, but not listed as available on DVD. You can usually find them at or better yet, travel to Montreal and go to the store on St. Catherine and Berri.
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Best Canadian Movie Ever
cocolajoie22 March 2002
This film, made in the mid-eighties about yuppies and their lives still holds up 15 years later. It was a contemporary movie then, it is now an impressive period piece. A drama/comedy about four man who are cooking, waiting for their wives who are at the gym and all 8 talk about sex, their lives, sex, fine wine, sex and living in the suburbs! The dialogue is witty and true and never the battle of the sexes has been fought so ferociously and with such verve! You will have a treat remembering how our lives were then. A perfect 10
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A Movie that Reflects the Social and Sxual Liberation of Quebec
dlipman2 February 2005
Having lived and taught at a francophone public university in Montreal in the early 1970's, I found this movie (just recently available through Netflix) accurately reflecting the preoccupation with sexual liberation, sexual experimentation and gender equality among so many Quebecois. Starting in the 60's, and definitely continuing into the 70's, Quebecois totally overthrew centuries of social control exercised by a particularly conservative Catholic church. Except for the 17th century language with its unique pronunciation, and maybe "cabane-a-sucre" (maple syrup) parties in late winter, countless traditions and social hierarchies apparently were scrapped. I believe sexual exploration and questioning of authority went far deeper than in the US, at least among the many urban middle and working class young people I met in that period. Yes, "Decline ..." is wordy, but words have their own eroticism, and mind-body integration is a big part of the sexual liberation the characters were facing, for better or worse. If you like this movie don't miss the sequel, The Barbarian Invasions, which reexamines these characters from a (hopefully) more mature perspective, skillfully weaves death and desire, and is just a great movie.
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Tired of middle-of the road, action driven film?
OkayDoood9 December 2009
Then get ready for a dialogue heavy, intellectually stimulating (among other things) film about 4 men, 4 women, sex, and sociology.

I enjoyed the conversations and how the director enhanced them with flashbacks. These were the evidence to the theses that the characters were proving. You could tell that there was as much physical humor as there was dialogue-based humor! When Diane (played by Louise Portal) described what sexual positions this 'real man' would put her in, she lied on the field and literally stretched them out! Another scene took place back at the vacation home with the 4 men. They got into a convo about how silly and mundane it was to pick up girls while dancing at a disco. They all got up and started dancing! While chatting up academics as small talk! The climax of the movie was particularly moving and heart-breaking. Can you see how I'm talking mostly about the plot? This is a great film that has a lot of movement in it, and it doesn't take a lot of walking and changes of scenery to keep it going!
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Improves on second viewing...
wisewebwoman3 April 2004
And also on having seen the Barbarian Invasions. I loved it the first time around, startled by its depiction of the dialogue on sex and realizing it was also reaching for something deeper. Men bragging to each other, the macho-ness of it all. The over-intellectualizing analysis of the battle of the sexes. The vulnerability underlying all the scenes, the false bravado. The acceptance of homosexuality. The jarring introduction of the brute biker primitive to the sophistication of the academics' table. The tangible hurt of Louise at the offhanded way Remy admits to affairs with her best friends. The devastating betrayal she feels and her seeking comfort from the only safe person - Claude, someone who cannot hurt her. Diane, wounded, angry acting out with her brutal lover. So much richness and depth. And the Barbarian Invasions, 18 years later in the lives of all, only enhances it. Bravo, Denys and everyone. 8 out of 10.
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Snappy Talk
writers_reign17 February 2004
This movie seems to be dividing commenters which can only be a positive sign. In the first negative comment I read the writer chose to remind us that film is a Visual medium and whilst that is true if we take it to its logical conclusion we will, by definition, look forward to a return of the Silent film. I find it difficult to believe that anyone who is sufficiently interested in movies to post comments is not going to wander into a movie theatre with no idea of what is playing. Okay, if you pay the going rate at the box office hoping to see a mindless popcorn movie/slasher/techno and after a couple of minutes you realise you're gonna hafta THINK about this one, then, sure, you got a beef, but by the same token aren't you kinda foolish in not checking SOMETHING about the movie currently playing and ideally reading at least one review that will mention the topic. I, for example, have never seen 'My Dinner With Andre', simply because it has never played in a theatre near me when I have been able to get there. BUT, I DO know that it is about two guys having dinner and talking so if I do eventually go and see it I can't really complain that it's not Eddie Murphy fodder. I MAY take exception to the KIND of conversation on offer but that's about it. No one goes to a Chekhov play in a live theatre hoping to see an Elton John concert. Chekhov plays are about groups of people kvetching about how sad they are period. The fact that it is GREAT theatre and Chekhov sets and sustains a great MOOD is neither here nor there. That may be why 'Vanya On 42nd Street' is such a great movie. Anyhow, back to this one. The night before I saw this I caught The Barbarian Invasions and was blown away so I made a point of seeing this. Apart from the strangeness of seeing mostly the same characters 18 years earlier - which was not unlike seeing Priestley's 'Time And The Conways' but leaving out Act #1 - the same sure directorial hand was easily discernible. If we do need talk movies, and, yes, there IS a place for them, then this one is as good as any and better than most. 8/10
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This movie is *not* about sex!
iamwaitingyouremail21 April 2015
I never had a good reason to add a review to the existing ones on IMDb, but this time I was appalled by the lack of critical thinking displayed by the majority of the reviewers.

This movie is *not* about sex, *not* about the sexual lives of the characters, and *not* about the battle of the sexes. As the title explicitly states, It is about the moral decline of a society, which in this particular case is made manifest through the over- indulging of the main characters on their sexual life and on their own personal gratification, at the expenses of their families, friends, and social group at large. This line of thought is made clear at the beginning of the movie. First, we see the main character – Remy – explaining the role of numbers in history, and claiming there is no place for morality in history, and thus drawing a line between personal and public history.

We then see Diane – one of the main characters – interviewing Dominique – the chairperson of the History department – who has just written a book entitled "Changing Concepts of Happiness". She draws a parallel between the American society at large/Empire and the Roman Empire, arguing that the search for personal happiness is associated with the decline and fall of a society. When people are too concerned with seeking quick gratification of their appetites while ignoring their responsibilities within family and larger social group, society is doomed to collapse.

And what we learn from the dialogues and the interactions that follow proves just that. What we see is that the lives of these so-called intellectuals are only marginally interested in history and the intellect. Their lives are centred around their never ending sex-hunt, and around the lies they consciously tell in order to hide the things that even according to their moral standards are considered rather unacceptable. Their relationships are fundamentally shallow and deceptive, and towards the end of the movie the whole sand castle comes crumbling down, and all is left is a huge nothingness, their nihilism, their lack of moral values and ideals. And so the story comes full circle while the characters sit together and listen to Dominique's interview, which reiterates the theme of decay, and is also the catalyst that will make the castle crumble down.

The dialogues are absolutely brilliant, and it is perhaps easy to be absorbed and forget about the broader theme, and when the movie ends you are left with a sense of desolation, even desperation, the same feelings that permeate the character's lives.
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An effectively disturbing film
Pelrad24 January 1999
I found reactions from those who saw this film very peculiar and interesting - it could even make for a great psychological study! Firstly, most critics seemed to completely miss the clear theme of the film. It was not a film about males and females revealing secrets about each other or a comedy about human sexuality. This was a film about the decline of the Roman Empire of today, shown through the harms of promiscuity, especially in its cause of the disintegration of the family unit. Those who did recognise this, while wholly willing to watch and enjoy films which glorify adultery, commented that this film, which but condemned it, was harmful to watch! For those with insight, this was an effectively disturbing film.
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who is the intended audience?
MartinHafer15 August 2005
I had a VERY hard time sitting through this film. Unless you really are very pro-adultery and like to hear people ENDLESSLY talking about their sexual exploits, I can't see how you could enjoy this film. Geez--most of the main characters behaved like rutting weasels and their bragging about their MANY infidelities grew tiresome. About the only element of this I appreciated was the DISGUSTING scene where the one character was urinating and blood was splattering everywhere because he'd picked up an STD---BIG SURPRISE!?! Hmm.

If you want a GOOD film, watch the sequel, Barbarian Invasions. Despite the general unlikable nature of many of the characters, the sequel is VERY involving and more realistic--well worth your time.
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THE DECLINE OF THE American EMPIRE is eloquent in its tangy acuteness for sardonic-ism, but most of its contents are either blasé or under-developed
lasttimeisaw10 May 2016
Serving as a prequel 17 years earlier of his Oscar-winning picture THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS (2003), Denys Arcand's Oscar-nominated THE DECLINE OF THE American EMPIRE is a pungent satire about the clashing encounter of the cerebral front and visceral impact pursuant to sex, marriage, betrayal and gender politics.

Set in Montreal, the ensemble including four very different men (three are university professors), Pierre (Curzi), a middle-aged man dating a young girl, Rémy (Girand), a married man for 15 years, Claude (Jacques), a single gay professor, and a young bachelor Alain (Brière), while they are preparing a dinner for the evening, their four female guests, are dripping with sweat in the uptown gym, they are, Louise (Berryman), Rémy's wife, Dominique (Michel), a spinster, Diane (Portal), a divorcée and Danielle (Rioux), Pierre's current girlfriend, a college student and moonlights as a masseuse. Plus, a non-middle class intruder is Mario (Arcand), a curt and tough kind, who only intends to engage in some rough shafting with Diane.

It takes quite some time for first-time viewers to get acquainted with these characters and their relationships. The first half of the film is constituted and divided by men's talk and women's talk, both about their various sex lives, buoyed up by a snippy editing (timely injecting flashback segments to visualize their recount), these two paralleled happenings are conflated together to enlighten how different views from men and women can be, especially on the same subject matter, the conversations are all perky and self-boosting, from excesses like adultery, S&M to swapping partners in an orgy, from speech of "gratification becomes the parameter of existence" to the titular "the decline of American empire" argument (an unconvincing point-of-view brewed in the ivory tower), as haughty and snobbish as they appear, there are moments of truth within.

When the two parties finally meet, the dinner table pleasantry turns into self-revealing heart- searching, then ends up with Dominique's spur-of-the-moment remark which causes strains upon Rémy and Louise's marriage. An acerbic mockery of talk the talk, but not walk the talk among these self-reliant middle class intellectuals, paralyzed by their verbal elaborations about their feelings and needs, while in truth, their lives are overwhelming benumbing.

Integrated an organic ensemble (Arcand, Rioux, Jacques and Michel are standouts in my pick) with a Haendel-themed spiritually enhancing soundtrack, and cinematographer Guy Dufaux's majestic static shots (notably the opening credit, and the sublime natural scenes), THE DECLINE OF THE American EMPIRE is eloquent in its tangy acuteness for sardonic-ism, but most of its contents are either blasé or under-developed, there is something missing in the aftertaste, maybe it is gratification.
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Flat and self-important.
Rockwell_Cronenberg5 March 2012
You know those movies where a group of friends get together and the film consists of a series of conversations between them regarding their lives, loves and many interminglings? Well, take one of those and make the characters completely unlikeable, thin and not remotely interesting and you've got The Decline of the American Empire. An endless tirade of insignificant conversations between overly sexual imbeciles, occasionally relieved by an unnecessary flashback that is supposed to mix comedy and drama but succeeds in neither.

There's a disturbing irony to it all because the film glazes over these dark, significant themes like infidelity but Arcand's approach is so flat and vanilla that none of it gets explored with even the slightest bit of depth or intelligence. I have no idea how these this film received such high praise from critics foreign and domestic. You can't live in a world where a true auteur such as Arnaud Desplechin is crafting ensemble character dramas that are so vivid and fascinating, and then look at this garbage and think it's anything worth watching.
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A classic of Canadian cinema
cmccann-224 April 2014
From The Lady Eve to Groundhog Day, the battle of the sexes is a recurrent theme in much cinema. In Denys Arcand's 1986 film The Decline of the American Empire, the showdown takes place over a fall weekend in Quebec cottage country among a group of academics. The film is a witty and sardonic look at sex and relationships in the modern age, and along with a handful of other French-Canadian films makes a solid argument for Quebec as the leading exponent of quality cinema in Canada.

Decline... commences with parallel groups of four men and four women as they prepare dinner at the cottage and work out at the gymnasium, respectively. The characters are either professors in the history at the Universite De Montreal or their lovers, and their conversations are dominated by discussions of sexuality. Though initially the segregated groups of men and women have quite gendered conversations on the subject, their eventual coming together over dinner causes things to heat up and tensions to rise.

A troupe of veteran Quebecois actors give indelible performances as the eight lead characters, special praise going to actor Remy Girard as the lovable scoundrel of the same first name. The cinematography of Arcand and DOP Guy Du Faux is also quite good, functional yet also achieving a subtle lyricism in parts. More than anything, however, the film should be noted for its script, Arcand possessing a preternatural skill for witty dialogue which makes the film enjoyable and engrossing throughout.

In conclusion, The Decline of the American Empire is a smart comedy/drama which offers a funny glimpse into the lives of intellectuals and their bedroom matters. The film is a must-see for fans of Woody Allen and Whit Stillman, covering similar territory to these filmmakers while also offering a flavour that is uniquely French-Canadian. The Empire may be in decline, but so as films like Arcand's are being made we can at least enjoy good cinema in the meantime.

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Engaging often funny, intelligent talk-fest about sex.
runamokprods21 March 2011
Sort of a Gallic 'Big Chill', but smarter, if less emotional.

There really isn't a plot. For the first half of the film four upscale, yuppie male friends (one gay) prepare a meal and talk about sex, while their female counterparts do the same at a gym. The 2nd half is the two groups sharing dinner, where the talk is more muted, but the personal stakes much higher.

Probably overrated when it first came out, now treated too harshly. The acting is strong throughout, and the satiric reality that all of the characters believe themselves self-knowing, but are really all living in denial and delusion is a little obvious, but interesting in it's execution.
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Passionless film about sex
Pro Jury7 October 2004
Sex is a most noteworthy aspect of existence. It is perhaps the most interesting activity there is between birth and death. LE DECLIN DE L'EMPIRE AMERICAIN studies human sexuality in a dry and boring manner. Actually, worse than being simply boring, seeing nude 40-year-olds is, well, unpleasant.

I guess there is some shock value in having adults as old as our parents talk about sex, but after twenty minutes, this stops being interesting. Perhaps if the characters were all 20 years younger, the film would be more visually captivating.

LE DECLIN DE L'EMPIRE AMERICAIN is not worth the time.
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The most annoying characters written for the silver screen.
rikyssese25 February 2004
A lot of people in the cinema enjoyed this film, but it only made me feel misanthropic. If smug "intellectuals" bantering about their irritating sex lives, sounds ok to you, watch it. I felt bored, but glad I did know people like that. The premise of the film was that, as with all societies or great civilizations, they are eventually doomed to fail. According to the female historian character, who bores us with this fact, America is showing signs of it's decline (Admittedly she goes into greater detail than me). The next part of the film is concerned with the vacuous, fatuous and asinine behaviour of her friends and colleagues, and the various miseries caused by their libidinous behaviour, with a vague attempt at humor. A lot of people liked this movie where I watched it. I could not relate to it.
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tedious, abysmal
pooklord19 April 2000
A movie that tries hard to say something and generally fails. Like the fatuous academics that populate the movie, it meanders aimlessly, substituting endless (it seems like forever listening to it) conversation for some action or plot direction.

Sadly, it's one of the best examples of canadian cinema I've seen.
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Not worth the effort
terceiro-212 October 2010
I really did not like this movie. It was pretentious and quite tedious. I don't think I liked one single character in the entire movie.

The story involves a bunch of academics who hand around a holiday house (the men) and gym (the women) talking about sex. The two groups end up coming together at the holiday house and talking more about sex. As you can imagine nobody has anything particularly uplifting to say about the topic of sex, focusing more on serial infidelity.

I guess one could argue that the whole point of the movie was to ridicule the main characters to demonstrate the decline of the American empire, but I don't think the director achieved that.

Also watching a movie like this with subtitles is hard work because the movie is very wordy. I found it hard to keep up with the constant rush of words at the bottom of the screen.
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Another Example of 'The Decline of' just plain Humans.
thesar-21 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I'm rating 'The Decline of the American Empire' just about below average since it wasn't terrible, but also not great. I liked the very open conversations from people so incredibly selfish and ugly inside and out. That was probably the most original aspect – a dialogue-laced sexual small film with people who are extremely far from models. That aside, it seems ironic that these French-speaking Canadians have a movie about a neighboring society that, well, is in 'Decline' when their own actions are their own demise. A group of women friends and male friends spend half the movie laughing it up on their infidelities and acceptance of such behavior and the other half "intellectually" speaking of how powerful they are for their speech and actions. These are the normal targets in typical sitcoms the main characters make fun of at parties occupied mainly by college professors. Sadly, it's not their "intelligence" or mastery of "history" that disturbs me. It's their pedestal made of ego and mightier-than-thou attitude that pushes me away and not one character could I relate to, nor like. When one cries, I couldn't care less – it's your bed. When one complains, I barely flinched. What made me skirmish was one character, uh, peeing red. (Another example of playing with fire.) Sure, I understand it happens to some people, but it was hard to watch. And I sincerely hoped the he washed his hands as he had no problem going right back to cooking for everyone. On the complete opposite end of the noses-up educators, they introduce a stereotypical nomad. This made me cringe as no one seemed real; everyone was as shallow as their laughter on society. Unfortunately, with no one left to root for, you're left as empty as these character's souls.
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Something like an intellectual clique's own standard bearer.
Polaris_DiB6 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
History and experience over the past couple of decades has shown us that intellectuals talking about sex is about the unsexiest and unintellectual thing anyone can do, but this wasn't quite as obvious back in 1986. Basically, the idea in this film is that these characters insatiable drive to find comfort, security, and pleasure in sexual acts is actually the unhealthy motive that makes them so unbearable to themselves--which they hide from themselves with more sex. This drive is linked to "the decline of the American Empire", as expressed in an early interview within the movie.

So the idea is that relatively detestable people talk about sex, and that that talk is supposed to reveal how detestable they are as people. Arcand at least keeps giving it drive and momentum by doing interesting things with the camera such as isolating most of the characters in single frames, revealing their ultimate loneliness, and cutting rapidly between them, showing how they are more at war with each other than they are at agreement. And to give Arcand credit, this is pretty much what intellectual life is, a constant struggle with other intellectuals to stand out, even when everyone knows that standing out means standing alone.

But yeah, the characters and action are unsexy and kind of pathetic. I think this film is much more an aspect of its time than it is something meant to last, which makes it kind of dated. It's also the exact type of mental buffing in dialog and references to people like Susan Sontag that makes art-house films so unpopular around the populist entertainment moviegoers. In all, I'll take it anyway--it has its place basically among the exact type of people the characters are--it's just that it's not really interesting or important to anyone who isn't those characters.

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