Time for more live review! Before going to Dylan’s feature presentation, I have in my notes that we had two shorts for this week. The first short was Dylan’s own “The Neurogenesis of the Adult Latex Glove”. You’re not going to find it anywhere. It was a home video with gloves blown up like balloons and suchlike nonsense. The second film, possibly also from Dylan because it wasn’t labeled as being Phong’s, was titled “Above Average”. This film does not show up on IMDB or on YouTube, and I don’t remember it, so…
Never mind all that junk above, it’s time for the feature presentation, which was 2003’s The Barbarian Invasions, directed by Denys Arcand, who did Jesus of Montreal and nothing else I’ve really heard of. Now, my recollection was that this was a really good movie, so let’s see how it holds up almost seven years after the first time I viewed it!
The film was made in Canada, which means it’s legislatively obligated to be voiced in both English and French. They do a pretty good job at the beginning of swapping between the two, but I’ve got a fear that this is going to be largely in French. Makes writing this up tougher, because I’ve got to read the movie.
The story begins as Rémy, an aging and openly philandering professor flees the Canadian national health care to get an MRI in the U.S. – the one which reveals that he’s dying (liver cancer). Despite their longstanding feud over the way his womanizing destroyed the family, his millionaire son Sébastien returns from London with his fiancée to coordinate his hospice, which Rémy insists on taking place in the Canadian system, partially because he voted for it in the first place. How’s that for the opposite of hypocrisy? Meanwhile, Rémy’s daughter Sylvaine is almost unreachable, sailing a yacht out on the Pacific.
Sébastien, with his copious amounts of cash, bribes the hospital administration and the workers’ union to move Rémy to a room on an abandoned floor of the hospital. He then goes about gathering numerous old friends of his father’s to keep him company, most of them as randy as Rémy, including two of his old mistresses.
Next, he begins to procure heroin (more effective than morphine) for his father’s pain through a schoolmate-turned-junkie. This is, shall we say, unusual devotion from a son who doesn’t love his father. Shoot, he even bribes former students to come and visit him in hospital.
Eventually, the entire crew beats the hospital and retreats to a cabin on a lake as Rémy deteriorates. Hopelessly addicted to the heroin, he can still enjoy the company of his intelligentsia friends, but the truffles and the wine no longer go down. After receipt of one final weepy video message from Sylvaine, the junkie administers Rémy an overdose of heroin and he dies, dreaming of his first of so many loves – an actress from an old film. And after setting the junkie on the road to recovery, partially with the use of Rémy’s old mistress-flat, Sébastien and his fiancée return to London.
It’s a film about Rémy coming to grips with death and leaving a life he has loved so very lustily. It’s a film about a junkie coming to grips with a life that isn’t lived one hit to the next, riding the dragon and never knowing if this fix will be the one that kills you. And it’s a film about a son reconciling with a father he has more or less disowned, though that transition does come through with a bit less resistance than you’d normally see portrayed on screen. But maybe that makes it all the more real. Worth the hour and a half.