The Barbarian Invasions

"Very Good"

The Barbarian Invasions Review


In Denys Arcand's "The Barbarian Invasions," the bald, flabby, bespectacled Remy (Remy Girard) is slowly dying. He never makes a miraculous recovery, nor does he renounce his sinful lifestyle, nor does he leave behind a fortune for his friends and family to enjoy. He's a goner.

How difficult it must be to get producers to finance a film about death, not to mention getting audiences to pay to see a film about death.

The reason "The Barbarian Invasions" succeeds is because -- to quote an old critical chestnut -- it's really about life.

Even though Remy destroyed his family with a lifelong obsession with sex and cheating, his wealthy, conservative entrepreneur son Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau) still comes to the hospital to look after his father.

Arcand doesn't have very nice things to say about Canada's public health care system. Stuck in a room with several other patients, Remy shrugs and says, "I'm lucky I'm not still out in the hall."

Sebastien's idea of care doesn't include much sitting around the bedside. Instead he uses his power and wealth to get his father a single room and to score some heroin to ease his pains.

Fortunately, a host of Remy's friends and family come to see him, including a gay couple, two former mistresses and an ex-wife. His daughter -- out on a sailing trip -- occasionally e-mails a digital video to express her love.

Remarkably, the film doesn't let itself get stuck inside the hospital, nor does it become one of those weepy "hospital dramas." Arcand's fluid camera weaves through the hallways and casually surveys the characters' faces, remaining unobtrusive but visually alive.

He also follows several of the supporting characters outside. Watching Sebastien slyly working the teamsters or trying to persuade a couple of cops to tell him where he can get heroin becomes part of the movie's peculiar joys.

The daughter of one of Remy's mistresses, Nathalie (Marie-Josee Croze in a beautiful performance), eventually becomes Remy's most feasible drug source. During her sessions with Remy showing him how to smoke and/or shoot heroin, she becomes one of the film's most fascinating personalities. As a junkie perched on the edge of life, her talks with Remy reveal some of the movie's most naked truths. With her, he wonders if he hasn't been living in the past a bit too much.

Otherwise, the movie centers on Remy and his old friends as they talk about sex and politics and how they spent their lives. It's clear that Remy enjoyed every moment of his life and his large heart and active personality have touched many lives.

Most of the scenes have some quotable dialogue, such as the one in which the friends describe the many political groups they belonged to. "Was there an 'ism' we didn't worship?" one of them asks. "Cretinism," comes the answer. To that, Remy responds with yet another funny, heartbreaking story.

Arcand ("Stardom," "Jesus of Montreal") constantly shoots out little topical tendrils, commenting on issues ranging all over the map, from China, to America's founding fathers, to 9/11, to intelligence, to politics, to sex and sexual fantasies. We follow these slender threads with ease -- the same as we follow the shifting topics in "My Dinner with Andre" -- even if Arcand sporadically stoops to the obvious. Occasionally his political tirades grow tiresome or his vulgar stories go too far.

Ultimately, though, Arcand makes us care for the characters above anything else. What they say is just an extension of who they are, not little messages the filmmaker wants us to take home with us. When Remy and Sébastien say their final goodbye, face-to-face, there's not a dry eye in the house. And every teardrop is absolutely earned.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 99 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 24th September 2003

Box Office USA: $3.3M

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: Canal+, Astral Films, Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), The Harold Greenberg Fund, Société Radio-Canada, Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles (SODEC), Téléfilm Canada, Pyramide Productions, Cinémaginaire Inc.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 105 Rotten: 25

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Rémy, as Sébastien, as Louise, as Diane, as Dominique, as Pierre, as Claude, as Gaëlle, as First Lover, as Sister Constance Lazure, as Ghislaine

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Advertisement
Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.