|Les Invasions Barbares and In America
||[Mar. 13th, 2004|12:13 am]
한국 사람이 아니다
|||||Weakerthans, Flea From a Cat Named Virtue||]|
Back in 1986, I was going to school in Montréal and, just having claimed my Canadian citizenship, very full of fierté canadienne. I discovered a contemporary film by a Québecois writer/director, Denys Arcand, called Le Déclin de l'Empire Américain, filmed in and around Montréal, a sort of French-Canadian Big Chill.
I loved it. I loved the chatty, intellectual characters, I loved the battle of Mars and Venus (and the faction-straddling gay character who, like Aesop's bat, was neither one nor the other), and I loved the intimacy.
I didn't realise that my first movie of the night, recent Oscar winner Les Invasions Barbares, was a sequel to Arcand's earlier film. All the characters are back, and the philandering Rémy is dying of cancer. His friends, scattered over the world, gather to help make his last days comfortable. His son, Sébastien, comes to his side from London to do all he can...
It's wonderful. It's real. And...fascinating to revisit characters like old, barely remembered friends. It occurred to me gradually, that these were the same characters, and during the film little memories came back...
There's a few jibes at the Neighbour to the South, as in the first movie, including a reference to September 11. But the best is when Sébastien accompanies his father to a hospital in Burlington, Vermont to get a CAT scan...the difference between American and Canadian healthcare is night and day, but Rémy refuses to get treated in the States...he'd rather die in Canada than live in American thralldom.
It's not always easy to watch this...but the acting is superb.
Rather accidentally, the second film in my self-made double feature was another view of America, and of family, life, and death. In America is at once a story of a family trying to heal after the death of a child, a heartwarming tale of immigrants making it in the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave, and a witty and ironic comedy.
I was quite impressed with the actresses who played the two girls. They're sisters in real life, and they're just fascinating to watch. And it was interesting to see Best Actress nominated Samantha Morton's performance, so much more subtle than the others, but yet so powerful.
While this is a "serious" film, with comments on AIDS and drug use, among other things, there are moments of sheer comedy, as when the man of the family decides an air conditioner must be acquired for the apartment, and stops at nothing until he gets the thing in the window and switches it on.
Djimon Hounsou, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, was also interesting to watch. As the mysterious artist neighbour, he's the right balance of scary and nurturing. The halloween trick-or-treat scene is the perfect introduction.
Call it sheer dumb luck, but these two movies mesh well together. A perfect DVD double-feature, when they're released on DVD...