2003, Movies

Les invasions barbares (2003, Denys Arcand)

I stupidly watched this without having seen the first film, however I don’t think it matters.

This is an affecting and amusing dramedy about mortality, friendship and, above all, family.

However, there are some major issues with either the film itself or the characters. It could just be Quebec, but the men and women in the film appear to be living in a different century than the rest of us. (Like I said, it could just be Quebec.) The mild misogyny of the male characters is viewed as not only integral to their beings but as being something endearing. The female characters – who are mostly poorly developed in comparison – appear to mostly enable this (very) mild misogyny. Now, if Arcand seeks to portray these people as they are, maybe this is not a problem. But the problem is I’m not sure whether that’s part of the (mild) satire. He seems to sympathetic to these people to not believe at least some of what comes out of their mouths, whether its the misogyny or whether it’s the radical stuff that is always hilarious coming out of the mouths of the well-to-do.

But this confusion of mine did not make me dislike the film and though I am not sure it’s entirely clear if this film is critical of these people at the same time as its sympathetic, I do think the overall affect of the film is a positive one, and, with the exception of some of the female characters – particularly that one guy’s young wife, who is awful, practically a caricature – everything else is good: the satire of Quebec’s bureaucracy, the over-told story of an estranged child coming to terms with his parent, etc.


  • Directed by Denys Arcand
  • Produced by Daniel Louis, Denise Robert
  • Written by Denys Arcand
  • Starring:
    • Rémy Girard as Rémy
    • Stéphane Rousseau as Sébastien
    • Dorothée Berryman as Louise
    • Louise Portal as Diane
    • Marie-Josée Croze as Nathalie
    • Marina Hands as Gaëlle
    • Dominique Michel as Dominique
    • Pierre Curzi as Pierre
    • Yves Jacques as Claude
    • Isabelle Blais as Sylvaine
    • Toni Cecchinato as Alessandro
    • Sophie Lorain as First Lover
    • Mitsou Gélinas as Ghislaine
    • Micheline Lanctôt as Nurse Carole
    • Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Sister Constance
    • Roy Dupuis as Narcotics Officer Gilles Levac
    • Lise Roy as Mme. Joncas-Pelletier
  • Music by Pierre Aviat
  • Cinematography by Guy Dufaux
  • Edited by Isabelle Dedieu
  • Production company Canal+, Telefilm Canada
  • Distributed by Pyramide Distribution (France), Alliance Atlantis (Canada), Miramax Films (US)
  • Release date: 21 May 2003
  • Running time: 99 minutes
  • Country: Canada, France
  • Language: French, English
  • Budget: US$5 million
  • Box office: US$26,924,656

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