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Barbarian Invasions, The (Les Invasions Barbares) (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/02/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins
In French with English subtitles

Intelligent, thought-provoking, frequently moving film with a strong script and an impressive ensemble cast.

The Barbarian Invasions may well have the most misleading title since The House of Mirth - needless to say, the entire film passes without a single barbarian even so much as contemplating an invasion of any kind. Instead, the film is a sequel of sorts to French-Canadian director Denys Arcand’s 1986 film, The Decline of the American Empire, though it isn’t at all necessary to be familiar with the first film in order to enjoy the sequel.

Wine, Women And Leftwing Ideals

The film stars Remy Girard as Remy, a college professor who had devoted his life to wine, women and the pursuit of leftwing ideals and who now finds himself terminally ill with cancer. His ex-wife (Dorothee Berryman), who divorced him several years ago due to his insatiable philandering, persuades Remy’s estranged son Sebastien (Stéphane Rousseau) to visit his father, hoping to achieve a reconciliation between them. Unfortunately, even on his deathbed, Remy is as cantankerous as ever and the old arguments soon flare up again…

Given the powerful theme of the son attempting reconciliation with his dying father, it isn’t too hard to imagine what Hollywood would have done with the same script.

However, The Barbarian Invasions is as much a film of ideas and conversation (Remy’s left-wing ideals versus his son’s success as a capitalist) as it is an emotional drama, though it is, in its own way, as emotionally manipulative as any Hollywood tear-jerker. It’s also surprisingly witty in places, despite the downbeat nature of its premise.

Superb Performances

Girard and Rousseau are both superb and there’s great support from Berryman, as well as Marie-Josee Croze (who won the best actress award at Cannes) as the junkie daughter of one of Remy’s old flames, who brings him heroin for medicinal purposes (at Sebastien’s request) and is inspired to get clean herself.

In addition, anyone familiar with Decline of the American Empire will enjoy seeing most of the characters (and actors) reunited after nearly 20 years as the actors do a terrific job of conveying their lifelong friendship.

In short, The Barbarian Invasions is a moving, intelligent film for people who like to be given something to think about (“The history of the world is a history of horrors: discuss”) while having their tears jerked. Recommended.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 23:23

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