I haven’t seen Arcand’s 1986 “Decline of the American Empire”, in which some of these characters first appeared, but I understand that it concerned a group of 1960s lefty intellectuals in Canada trying to deal with the 1980s. Now it’s 17 years later and one of their group, a promiscuous academic, is dying of cancer. Friends and relatives gather. The film’s assessment of the modern period seems to be that intelligence is dead and nothing has any value except for what it can fetch in the marketplace. (For example, the dying man’s estranged son has never read a book, but he does know a lot about how to manage financial risk for oil companies and thus is richly rewarded by society). Still, the film is an affirmation that ideas have value even if they won’t make you rich, that they survive although people die. I loved this movie. It’s one of those pictures that makes you say, “oh yeah—that’s what film CAN be”. Incidentally, it’s up for the Oscar for best Foreign Language film (it’s in French).
- Feb 11, 2004