Monday, September 4, 2023

Review: "THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS" is a Masterpiece

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 125 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Les Invasion Barbares (2003)
The Barbarian Invasions (2003) – U.S. title
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  Canada/France; Language:  French/English
Running time:  99 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, sexual dialogue, and content
PRODUCERS: Daniel Louis and Denise Robert
EDITOR: Isabelle Dedieu
COMPOSER: Pierre Aviat
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Rémy Girard, Stéphane Rousseau, Dorothée Berryman, Louise Portal, Dominique Michel, Yves Jacques, Pierre Curzi, Marie-Josée Croze, Marina Hands, Toni Cecchinato, and Mitsou Gélinas

Les Invasions barbares is a 2003 comedy and drama written and directed by Denys Arcand.  A Canadian and French co-production, the film was released in the U.S. under the title, The Barbarian Invasions, the title I will used for this review.  The Barbarian Invasions focuses on a dying man, who during his final days, is reunited with old friends, former lovers, his ex-wife, and his estranged son.

Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasion won the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 76th Academy Awards in 2004.  A sequel to Arcand's 1986 film, The Decline of the American Empire, The Barbarian Invasions received only one other Oscar nomination, which was for best original screenplay (written by Arcand), and that was and still is ridiculous.  Considering the performances and Arcand’s direction, the film should have received at least a few more.

The Barbarian Invasions is the story of 50-ish Rémy (Rémy Girard) and his family.  He is dying of cancer and is laid up in a Montreal hospital.  His ex-wife, Louise (Dorothée Berryman), summons home their son, Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau), who is estranged from his father and is living in London.  Sébastien, a rich oil trader for a huge British firm, is, in a sense, a disappointment to his father.  The son is a wealthy capitalist and the father was an arm chair, leftist, radical type.

Soon after he arrives, Sébastien uses his money and connections to fight the entrenched Canadian nationalized health system, and he gets Rémy a private room and other amenities.  But the most difficult part of the prodigal son’s return home is the reconciliation between father and son.

The most amazing thing about this thoroughly beautiful film is that Arcand is able to tell the story of a father trying to redeem himself, of a son trying to put aside his anger at this father, and of a man trying to find meaning in a life he believes that he lazily kept so modest and have still more sub-plots, philosophies, and ideas.  The film also deals with mother/daughter relationships, the drug war, drug addiction, personal and professional failure, the Canadian health system, socialism, infidelity, friendship, politics, religion, genocide, and barbarian invasions of civilization.  Arcand does all of this without losing the central, human focus of his lovely movie.  Filled with rich performances, subtle humor, and endearing characters, The Barbarian Invasions is the best film of the year.

10 of 10

Re-edited:  Saturday, September 2, 2023

2004 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Canada); 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Denys Arcand)

2004 BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations: “Best Screenplay-Original” (Denys Arcand) and “Best Film not in the English Language” (Denise Robert, Daniel Louis, and Denys Arcand)

2004 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Canada)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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