Barbarian Invasions, The (Canada/France; 99 min.)


directed by: Denys Arcand
starring: Rémy Girard; Stéphane Rousseau; Dorothée Berryman
Les Invasions Barbares
 

Bruce says: "Have you ever had an acquaintance whom you disliked yet strangely liked all their friends and family? Such is Remy, the central character in THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, who happens to be on his last legs in hospital. Throughout his life he has been a womanizer, unfaithful to his wife and inconsiderate to his mistresses. He has been a horrible parent as well. Why then, have his ex-wife, former mistresses, teaching associates, and leftist friends all rushed to his side as he lies in pain? Even his son Sebastien, a hot shot London financier, is in attendance with his financee in tow.

"As the story unfolds it turns out Remy has a larger-than-life persona and has been a human magnet to many who have crossed his path. All except for Sebastien, that is. Theirs is a particularly tense and unpleasant father and son relationship. So bad that Sebastien prefers to return home to London than be further abused by his father.

"Remy’s friends help make Sebastien aware that his father is not quite as bad a person as it seemed while Sebastien was growing up. Sebastien then becomes totally focused on making his father’s last days as comfortable and as painless as possible. He wheels and deals with the hospital to get his father a private room. He meets the drug addicted daughter of a one of his father’s mistresses and has her score heroin to ease the pain.

"What follows is a celebration of life rather than a dreading of the inevitable death. The participation, the camaraderie involved in this ritual is something to behold. There is no way to detail the storyline without it seeming a bit trite. The genius of the film is in Arcand’s writing, the unbelievably real dialogue which whirls and swirls around each scene effortlessly. Discussions of sex, politics, friendship, national health and family trade places as the topic of the moment.

"Arcand knows his characters as well he should. With the exception of Sebastien, his girlfriend and the drug addicted Nathalie, all the main characters also appeared in Arcand’s 1986 film, THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE. One does not have to see the earlier film to appreciate THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS. In fact, I would recommend seeing it afterwards if you have not already seen it.

"By the end of the film I felt that had I been a bit luckier in life, I would have been Remy’s friend, too. THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS made me laugh, cry and think; I couldn’t ask for more. It was my favorite film of 2003." 5 cats

 
Esmé says: "Eh, kind of a disappointment. After Bob said it was one of his favorites, I made sure to catch it, but I really didn't like or care about any of the characters, and I thought the son's methods of buying people off to take care of his dad were cheap. What would have been able to do for his father if he wasn't rich? (A dysfunctional, Candadian family reuniting around the dying father)"
 
Mary W. says in response to Bruce: "Yes! I also loved THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS. Wonderful the way you slowly grew fond of Remy and came to understand why the other characters were drawn to him. At the same time the movie respected--rather than taking the easy route of dismissing--the wealthy son. I agree that the writing was exceptional; the story kept taking unexpected detours, but without ever losing focus or interest. I was pleasantly surprised that it actually got an Oscar Best Screenplay nomination."
 
Michael says: "I missed this French Canadian film by Denys Arcand (JESUS OF MONTREAL, THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE) last year but caught up with it on DVD. THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS is a well-made, well-acted film that tackles big issues: life, death, sex, and society.

Rémy is having difficulty coping with his impending death, so his estranged son, Sébastien arranges for all his comforts, including a reunion of his friends and past lovers to make his last days easier. Through their conversations and interactions, THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS looks at how we lived and how society is changing.

The older generation, Rémy and his friends, lived their lives preoccupied with sex and the pursuit of pleasure, often sacrificing fame and status in the process. Sébastien and his fiance Gaëlle, represent a new way of life that involves capitalistic success, and a shunning of "the pop cliches of love." Into this mix comes Nathalie (an intense performance by ARARAT's Marie-Josée Croze), the daughter of one of Rémy's friends, who Sébastien enlists to provide heroin for his father to ease his pain. She represents the darker side of the new way of life, along with the Montreal's poorly equipped hospital, the corrupt union, and questionable police activities.

Through their interactions, each generation learns from the other as we see the ultimate goal of both is to find happiness and find fulfillment in life. For Rémy, the 'barbarians' in the title are represented by this younger generation who are invading society and changing it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a change.

Arcand treats his characters like old friends, with gentle, good humor, unafraid to show their flaws. THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS is a strong film. 4 cats"