Decline of the American Empire, The

Out of the Canadian vaults comes Denys Arcand’s classic art-house hit of the 1980s, which was described at the time as a French-Canadian version of Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Clill. Four university history professors, three married and one gay, gather at a country house and prepare a large meal. They talk about their sex lives. Meanwhile their wives are at a health club. They too talk dirty secrets. Finally they all converge for the big dinner and the knives come out. Arcand has assembled a band of middle-class professionals, sinking onto that middle-age plateau of resignation, and with little to occupy their minds but the pursuit of pleasure. His achievement is to make the subject appear by turns black and satiric, without ever falling out of love with his characters. A penetrating, discomforting study, recommended to all those who worry about feeling too smug about their private lives.
Canada, 1986. English subtitles. Colour. 101 mins.

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