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:: The Barbarian Invasions

Written and directed by Denys Arcand, The Barbarian Invasions is a sequel of sorts to The Decline of the American Empire (1986) and has won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the Cesar award for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay as well as the Best non-European film at the European Film Awards in 2003.

The film documents the last days of Remy (Remy Girard), a divorced history professor and passionate socialist who is dying of cancer. When he is hospitalised, his ex-wife Louise (Dorothee Berryman) asks their son Sebastian (Stephane Rousseau) a successful London banker to come home to Montreal to visit. Sebastian is initially reluctant as he and his father haven’t had much to say to each other for years but he eventually relents, opting to be of some support for his mother. Upon his arrival, Sebastian the capitalist son realises that it is pointless to try and make up for the distant and strained relationship he has had with his father, so he does what he does best, which is using money to make his fathers last days a s comfortable as possible. He pays a couple of his fathers students to visit him in hospital to tell him how much they admired him as a lecturer. He summons several of his father’s old friends and lovers to come and visit, elevating Remy’s recently refurbished hospital room to an ersatz wine bar complete with finger food. Despite being in a comfortable room with old friends visiting regularly, Remy is still in a lot of pain. Sebastian acquires some heroin with the help of a junkie friend who agrees to administer the drug to Remy whenever he needs it.

This film has some genuinely moving moments without having to drag emotion out of its audience with trite sentiment or emotive music. It is melodrama at its most tasteful, what the Big Chill might have hoped to have been. Remy Girard is wonderful in the main role and seems to enjoy playing the cranky but feisty Remy. Marie- Josee Croze in her role as Nathalie, the heroin addict who helps ease Remy’s pain, also delivers a great performance which won her the Best Actress award at Cannes 2003. Another winner at Cannes, Arcand’s award-winning script is clever, witty and entertaining.

Screening at Cinema Nova.