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THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, 2003
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THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, 2003
Movie Review
Directed by Denys Arcand
Starring: Remy Girard, Stephane Rousseau and Dorothee Berryman
Review by Russell Hill




SYNOPSIS:

A terminally ill man summons his family and friends to his bedside to recall of their past exploits.

REVIEW:

Winner of a number of prestigious awards, such as the 2004 Cesar for “Best Picture” and the 2003 Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film”, “The Barbarian Invasions” is one of the finest movies this reviewer has had the pleasure to watch. Bought simply because it was on sale for the measly sum of £1, I was pleasantly surprised by my rather cheap purchase which felt as though it should have been bought for tenfold of its retail price. Concentrating more on character development rather than plot, it is to the movies bonus that it succeeds in doing so. No CGI here, just good ol’ fashioned dialogue acted to the best possible standard.

The protagonist of the film is Remy (Girard), and he is not a man in the prime of life. He knows his time is near, and wishes all his loved ones to be near him. Whether this is his eccentric bunch of pals, or his estranged son Sebastien (Rousseau), Remy is a man who loved to be around people and wishes to end it that way. A retired University Professor, Remy hasn’t always been on best terms with Sebastien. Despite this estrangement, Remy is incredibly proud of him. Having made a name for himself in business in the grand continent of Europe, he has the money and power to make anybody envious as well as bagging himself a trophy wife. Sebastien even wears suits so good it would make Barney from “How I Met Your Mother” jealous. They are reunited in Quebec, and make some form of amends before Remy’s inevitable departure.

The above might sound melodramatic, but the movie is not a Hallmark piece whatsoever. It is rightly so that Arcand, who provided the screenplay as well as directing it, won a Cesar for his writing efforts. The dialogue shared between all is both intellectual and provocative which asks the question that could Hollywood be allowed to produce banter brimming with quality such as this. The acting, as with the writing, is as good as the dialogue they are provided with of which I shall not digress.

Remy, despite his illness, remains a giant figure of a man that even when sitting down overshadows those around him. His girth is as large as his intellectual capacity, and exercises it well amongst his bourgeois friends. No discussion of football here, but art and philosophy as well as the existence of God. Not exactly bar-room banter but more MENSA. It is quite a feat that, as the film carries its morbid corpse along what seemed like a very short feature, Girard really does flex his thespian muscles well by depicting someone whose time is very nearly up.

Hands up who has actually heard of Stephane Rousseau? Not many I bet. My hand raised high, this reviewer was sure glad to hand over the tiny sum paid for this film as it was a treat to see this quite young but obviously talented gentleman give his all as the son with a chip on his shoulder. His emotional range is demonstrated to its best here. You want anger, despair and emotional outcry portrayed to a Brando-esque quality? Then look no further with Rousseau. Having not watched many contemporary French films, although this was mainly shot in Canada, I would have to say that Rousseau gave one of the best performances by any actor this reviewer has yet to come across. The bar has been set extremely high for his fellow Frenchmen, that’s for sure.

Despite its outright morbid feeling to it, “The Barbarian Invasions” is an incredibly upbeat movie. For his whole life, Remy has lived life to the full and in the way he damn well wants it. He has surrounded himself with some great friends and romanced more than his share of dames. Wine has been drunk and good times have been had. Remy is proof that if you want to have a good time out of this crazy thing called life than it is there for the taking. It’s just the matter of how you do it. A bad philosophy? Certainly not.

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