Irish Film Institute -Barbarian Invasions, The

Barbarian Invasions, The

Director: Denys Arcand

Canada-France| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Anamorphic. 99 minutes.

Writer-director Denys Arcand’s The Decline of the American Empire brought together a circle of verbose intellectuals whose liberal ideals languished while they sought refuge from ennui in voracious sexual activity. Seventeen years later, The Barbarian Invasions reunites the characters and cast of his 1986 masterpiece in a film destined to equal its predecessor in superlatives. Much has changed in the intervening years, not least of which is the emotional terrain Arcand explores. The first film was funny and ironic, shaded with dark touches. The new film is also funny, but much more emotional and direct. This is, above all, the story of estranged family members grappling to make sense of each other and the wider world. The salacious Remy (Remy Girard) is now facing mortality. Distressed, his ex-wife Louise (Dorothee Berryman) sends for their successful financier son, who barely tolerates his father but grudgingly responds to the call of the mother who raised him alone. He organises the hospital stay and summons Remy’s old friends to his bedside. They arrive, bristling with wisdom and witticisms about love, family and death. Arcand’s vibrant script allows his captivating ensemble countless opportunities to shine, and it’s no surprise that the film won awards for best screenplay and best actress at the Cannes Film Festival. The director shifts effortlessly between comedy and pathos as he wrestles with the faltering dreams of individuals and nations. Arcand’s affection for his characters is boundless, and as they ponder with pain or serenity the social revolutions they have witnessed, the director once again proves himself master of word, image and emotion.

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