Les Invasions Barbares [The Barbarian Invasions] (2003)

(In French, In theaters, May 2004) To be truthful, I wasn’t expecting much of this film: I’m not one for tearjerkers, gabfests, “populist” films (this film made a bundle at the Quebec box-office) nor melodramatic sequels. But there is something for everyone in the film, and if I could easily gloss over the melodrama of the dying protagonist, it was harder not to enjoy the witty intellectual dialogue between the band of literate, hedonistic friends at the centre of the film. Les Invasions Barbares is seldom as enjoyable as when they trade back salacious puns and philosophical references. (Sadly, the otherwise-decent subtitles completely give up during one such exchange… though at least we were spared the indignities of a dubbed film!) Otherwise, well, there is plenty of philosophical content to keep anyone busy, from a flash-analysis of 9/11 to a devastating scene literally showing the relics of Quebec’s Catholic church. (What this film isn’t is “focused”: the sprawling script touches upon anything and seeming everything.) In the end, I found myself cheering for the film, regardless of origin; it’s so rare to see liberal intellectualism so warmly portrayed than it is here, it’s just a shock to realize that it actually came from, in some sense, my own culture. Go figure.

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