Les Invasions barbares
(The Barbarian Invasions)
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 99 min
Cinémaginaire Inc. (Montreal),
Les Invasions barbares
, Denys Arcand’s enormously successful sequel to his iconic 1986 generational study Le Déclin de l’empire américain
, follows the same group of lascivious, baby boomer intellectuals as they rally around their dying friend Rémy (Rémy Girard), a divorced history professor in his fifties who has lost none of his acid wit or mischievous charm despite his confinement to a Montreal hospital. Knowing Rémy has little time left, his ex-wife Louise (Dorothé Berryman) sends for their son Sébastien (Stéphane Rosseau), a wealthy international financier who immediately travels from London with his French fiancée Gaelle (Marina Hands).
Even though Sébastien and his father have not spoken for some time and do not get along ("he’s a puritanical capitalist and I’m a sensual socialist," Rémy barks), Sébastien nevertheless sets out to ease his father’s suffering as much as possible; he bribes the hospital staff and union delegates to set up Rémy in a private room on an abandoned floor and arranges for special tests at a private hospital in the United States. When the tests reveal that Remy’s condition leaves no hope for recovery, Sébastien gathers Rémy’s old group of friends who flock to his side to offer support, and in the process take a facetious, irreverent look at their own lives.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to assuage Rémy’s pain, Sébastien makes an arrangement with Nathalie (Marie-Josée Croze) – a heroin addict and the daughter of Rémy’s friend and former lover Diane (Louise Portal) – to help make his final days more bearable. As the end approaches, the entire group gathers at Pierre’s (Pierre Curzi) lakeside cottage for the final farewell.
Les Invasions barbares demonstrates that neither Arcand nor the characters have lost any of the wonderfully observed acerbic wit that made Le Déclin de l’empire américain so appealing; among the many subjects that get caught in Arcand’s deft satirical crossfire are Quebec’s health care system, the Catholic Church, labour unions, globalization and law and order, just to name a few. Deep and emotionally supple, the film is distinguished by Arcand’s acute and playful sense of history, his delicate insight into the characters and a host of top-notch performances from an especially talented cast. Particularly impressive are Girard, Rousseau (a well known Québécois comedian making an impressive dramatic debut) and Croze as the wounded and desolate Nathalie.
Arcand eschews easy sentimentality and shifts effortlessly between comedy and pathos as he wrestles with the faltering dreams of individuals and nations. Writing in Rolling Stone magazine, critic Peter Travers commented that Les Invasions barbares "moves you to laughter and tears without cheating to do it. The film stays emotionally focused and politically astute even as Arcand shifts from a dying man’s erotic fantasies to the aftermath of 9/11."
One of the most celebrated and widely praised Canadian features ever made,Les Invasions barbares grossed over $25 million worldwide and won a seemingly endless list of international awards and accolades, most notably the prizes for Best Screenplay (Arcand) and Actress (Croze) at the Festival de Cannes, three César Awards for Best Film, Director (Arcand) and Screenplay, an Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film and a nomination for Original Screenplay.
It was named Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival®, where it was the opening night Gala screening, received the Screen International Award at the European Film Awards, was named Best Film at numerous international film festivals from Bangkok, Thailand to Valladolid, Spain and was heralded as the Best Foreign Film of the year by numerous critics associations in the United States.
Les invasions barbares also won eight Jutra Awards, including those for Best Actress (Croze), Director, Screenplay and Film, and was nominated for ten Genie Awards. It was named one of Canada’s Top Ten of 2003 by an independent, national panel comprised of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals.