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The Barbarian Invasions (18)

Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes; Denys Arcand interview; Theatrical trailer; The Decline of the American Empire trailer; Cast and crew filmographies.

DENYS Arcand's follow up to The Decline of the American Empire, released to great acclaim in 1986, is a disappointment to say the least.

In Barbarian Invasions, Remy (Remy Giraud), the lecherous central character of the earlier film, is nearing death from cancer at his Montreal home.

His son, Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau), is now a successful merchant banker, who believes that anything can be bought and that anything that can't is not worth having.

Thus, he uses his wealth to bribe union officials to allow him to arrange for a private ward to be opened purely for the convenience of his father.

Later on, equally compassionately, he employs a junkie to administer heroin to his dying father. Of course, he couldn't do it himself, as that would be vulgar.

Meanwhile, Remy's family, friends and current and former mistresses gather around his death bed, where they greet his every pretentious, self-important utterance about life, love and death as if they were the words of the Buddha himself.

Without an exception these hangers-on are a shallow, mean-spirited bunch of bourgeoise no-counts, who mistake philosophical declamation for conversation and obsequiousness for love.

Their self-obsession is matched only by their cynical contempt and disregard for anyone who is not part of their world.

And yet, incredibly, Arcand seems to think that we should find these despicable cretins likeable, even though it is obvious that they and the object of their adoration, Remy, have spent their entire lives doing little else than abusing others for their own meretricious ends.

Of course, there will be some people who will like this film - think merchant bankers, think burnt-out academics, think film-critics who should know better, think any of the characters in a Joanne Trollope novel - but, for the majority, there is nothing here at all.

It is totally void of any emotional or human content. With any luck it will be such a flop that Arcand will never direct again.

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