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Cranking out widgets in search of meaning...
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The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares)

Quebec director Denis Arcand returns his attention to the cast of "The Decline of the American Empire" with Rémy (Rémy Girard) hospitalized and struggling with his mortality. His son, Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau) has to be convinced to travel back home for a visit, but upon arrival, sets about trying to do what he can to ease his father's suffering using various morally dubious, though efficient means. He has become a successful businessman and operates in a world of finance that Rémy knows nothing of. This is the heart of the story, that our lives and those of our children are much beyond our control and it's up to us to find any meaning.

Throughout the film we are shown how the character's lives have changed with age since the first film. Pierre has a family, Diane's rough trade lover is gone, Dominique seems alone, and Claude has presumably given up cruising in parks. Generational relationships play a big part as well, Rémy's relationship with his son, his camaraderie with Diane's daughter Nathalie and his relation to his students further revealing his lust for life, and how rare that seems to be. The film also makes comment on the failing Quebec healthcare system, the bloated and corrupt state of Unions, and manages a few pokes at government beurocracy and drug dealing.

Though not so directly concerned with sex as "Decline" was, the characters all retain their various charms and do a fair bit of philosophizing on the modern era. All the main cast from the first film is here, and since many of their projects are "seulement disponible en français", it's good for those of us with little French to be able to watch them again. Watch for small roles by Arcand and Roy Dupuis. Mitsou is also quite fun as Pierre's stormy wife.

Stylistically, things are about the same. There isn't the heavy reliance on flashbacks like "Decline" had and though (hopefully) exaggerated, the crowded disorganization of the hospital sets the mood nicely. Nathalie's situation is obviously contrived, but we're used to things like that in films, and looking at it from her perspective, the events of the film seemingly give her Rémy's lust for life.

With only a handful of Canadian directors having reached any kind of mass appeal, it's always an occasion when one of their films is released. The Barbarian Invasions is getting a decent marketing push, thanks to the success of "Decline" and it's own merits (including Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival). It's likely that with its subject matter, it will find an even larger audience. If you enjoyed the first, you'll like this one too. If you haven't, it would be a good idea to see it beforehand, even though this film stands well enough on its own.

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