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The Barbarian Invasions


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#21 Overstreet

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 12:05 PM

J. Robert, you have hit the nail on the head. I am impressed with some of the readings Leary and others have made, but your argument about the tone of it and the celebration of such behavior really gets at why I was increasingly miserable as the film went on. I think it portrays commitments to religion, marriage, etc as somewhat fulfilling, but far more fulfilling is the path of the seeker who lets nothing hold him back, who will experience excruciating pain in his life as he tries everything. The son is setting out on a similar path at the end of the film.

I felt so many misbehaviors were portrayed in a more than sympathetic fashion: the adulteries, the drugs, the euthanasia...

Do you have a review posted that includes these arguments, Robert?

#22 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 02:24 PM

jrobert wrote:
: I'm sorry, but I have a real problem with a movie that treats politics as
: something unimportant and trivial.

I agree that politics are (is?) important, but at the same time, I must say I sympathize with Arcand's and Rémy's view that political ideologies amount to nothing more than a dead end without some sort of spiritual foundation. I think Arcand recognizes this in his portrayal of Sister Constance, the actress-turned-nun who tells Rémy he will be saved if he embraces the mystery, instead of turning his back on it. I think Arcand also recognizes this in the way that he followed up The Decline of the American Empire back in the '80s by making Jesus of Montreal. The feeling I had, upon watching The Barbarian Invasions, was that Arcand, like Rémy, really wishes he could believe in something bigger than himself -- he really wishes there was some sort of Big Picture that would make sense of everything -- but he can't. And so all either of them can do is make peace with death. Yes, I think the film looks kindly on Rémy's assisted suicide. But I also think the film shows us what a despairing, and desperate, act this is. I do get the feeling that Arcand wishes there was a better way, and that he has an inkling of where it might be found -- but first he has to believe that it is there for the finding.

: Also, it's simply immoral to laugh at your support of the Cultural
: Revolution and regret that you didn't get to bed yet another woman. The
: Cultural Revolution can not be so easily dismissed.

I'm beginning to have flashbacks to the controversies over Arcand's documentaries on Quebecois politics, which some people found too sarcastic. (There's a hilarious montage in Comfort and Indifference, his documentary on the 1980 sovereignty referendum, in which Arcand edits together a string of clips of federalist politicians spouting various figures, estimating the financial cost to the province if Quebec separates from Canada, and after hearing "XX million ... XX million ... XX million ... " over and over again, we suddenly see a sheep go "Baaaa!!" And then Arcand proceeds to profile the farmers who own that sheep.)

: Ditto on the movie's attitude towards fidelity and adultery. I know that
: stef and Leary make a big point of Arcand's use of Heaven over the
: Marshes, but that just completely ignores the movie's much greater
: emphasis on how all his women get along. Look at how happy they are,
: look at how indulgent they are. They represent the mature attitude that
: overlooks Remy's infidelities in favor of his pursuit of pleasure.

Have you seen The Decline of the American Empire? Because there, there is a definite sense of betrayal, as I recall -- but that was 17 years before The Barbarian Invasions takes place, and there has been more than enough time to heal or numb their wounds.

: Nathalie is the most beautiful junkie ever seen on film, and we've seen
: some beautiful junkies. There are apparently no bad effects of her habit.

Interesting.

: And then, in another of the movie's bafflingly unrealistic moments,
: Nathalie is able to kick her habit. How? Just because.

Hmmm, I don't even remember this plot point, but I would ask if we really have to SEE all the stuff that goes with kicking a habit.

#23 M. Leary

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 09:37 AM

This may be one of the essential debates of this board. Over all of the years, under all of the rabbit trails: this film presents us with the monolith whose ears we have tweaked and whose tail we have stroked in the dark closet that is “Christian Film Criticism.”

And as much as I hate disagreeing with J Robert (not to stroke your ego as if you are some sort of guru, because in a way you are to me as you have been at this tricky game much longer than I, I have learned more about film writing from you than anyone else, and I can think of nary a time that you have either convinced me that I am wrong on something we have disagreed about or just flat out are always spot on), but I will rise up to the challenge of taking the short end of this stick.

Here is the deal. Barbarian Invasions simply presents the “Christian” film critic with all of the questions that we grapple with regarding every film we write about. Now these are pretty grandiose terms, but in many ways this film is a bit of a watershed for me. Or is it a Waterloo. Or…a Watergate perhaps?

Regardless, here is my reasoning on the film: Arcand’s genius is that he has built a drama around a large number of characters that are completely round, even dare I say "opaque". He does little else than allow us to walk around them and see all of their strengths and faults in an uncompromising glimpse. We are privvy to every subtlety, every cog and bearing of the drama, and every narrative kink that any other director would leave to our imagination as a means of dramatic tension (eg Bergman) or monopolize on as a means to helping us forge an emotional allegiance to a specific character (eg Truffaut or countless others). I don’t want to say that the film is “documentarian” in this sense, but rather that he achieves the bold theatrical drama of someone like Mike Leigh or even Ken Loach.

We are allowed to walk around in the story with no leading from the director in any specific direction. For once we are allowed to be engaged in a story in a way that only film enables us to, for even in life we are not able to comprehend our environment in toto. But here, in film, we can. It is a fabrication, it isn’t a realism because it is so comprehensive but rather a profound literary glimpse set into film. One in which we are a first person with full access to a number of third persons.

Simply put: we are allowed to see Remy in moments that no one else has seen him, and we are also able to see the results of these important moments as other people are encountering him as having been changed by them. Same with Sebastien and the other main characters.

Arcand does not cajole us or persuade us to align with the agendas or reactions or decisions of anyone in the film (except for one, which I will argue later). And at the same time, and here is his genius, he doesn’t make us see his characters as stupid or silly. They are people, just as complex and broken and disgusting as people tend to be. Let me suggest a few examples of this.

1. The pivotal scene for Remy is when on one of the trips with his son he is talking about dying. And he finally remarks that it is going to be sad because “he will be gone.” He finally admits the finality of what is happening to him and for a moment drops his cynicism and bitterness. But think about what he is saying and who he is talking to. He is telling his son, whom he abandoned, that the saddest thing about him dying is simply that he won’t be around anymore. He is not sad about having not been there for his son or wife more durign his life. He is sad that he won’t be there anymore. When Remy is leaving his class for the last time, the students barely care and he is very sad about this. Why is he sad? Because he will be missed. Because he won’t be loved and adored the way professors these days are used to being admired and needed. He knows he means nothing to nobody. And deservedly so, because Arcand pulls no punches regarding his unbelievably corrupted moral state. The one moment in the film when he is offered a chance at transcendence, he talks about film. Good. For this day and age that is a good place to start. But then he talks about film and culture purely as a material for masturbation. What heinous corruption. He takes that image that so captivated Bazin as an epic moment of beauty, of a new kind of beauty unique to film and thus to modern man. He takes that "holy moment" and dirties it, turns it into pornography. This is the worst sort of violation. And Remy is ignorantly frank about it.

2. Nathalie. Yeah, she is the most gorgeous junkie I have ever seen in a film. She is a romanticized vision of the way Americans tend to view the hip and open drug culture of urban Canada. But we do see how and why she got there. And we do see how and why she got clean. I don’t think it is fair to say that she just magically gets clean. Arcand does gloss over the difficulty of getting of that endless ride, but we do catch glimpses of her trying. And we don’t even really know at the end that she won’t return to it. For Nathalie, it is important to recognize that she is totally complicit with Remy’s debauchery. She is already very used to the numbing sins that Remy only discovers at the very end of her life. She is a castaway, abandoned just like Sebastien, and she has chosen to deal with that through addiction and abuse rather than being driven to financial success. She is a logical extension of her mother’s behavior.

3. Sebastien is a bit of a mystery. We know he still suffers from the actions of his father. We know that he has dealt with this by making it in life, even though his father doesn’t even know what he does. And we know that he steps in to help his father the way he does because that is just how he does things (ironically, from Remy’s perspective this is how the “barabarians” do things). He is a capitalist that knows what makes this world goes round even though he cares little for his father’s generation of revolt against “the system.” He has seen his father’s generation sit on their hands, drink port, and sleep with each other. His difficult childhood is the result. One of the most touching moments in the film is not Remy’s death, it is Sebastien’s wife talking about how she used to fling herself on her adulterous father’s car to keep him from leaving. That scene links Sebastien and his generation to Remy and his generation, which in turn leads us to discovering the irony of the title of the film. Remy calls that generation “Barbarians,” as if they are unenlightened. They aren’t unenlightened, they trying to live patterns that are different than the ones they grew up with.

Every time I talk about this film I find myself doing little other than describing the characters. That is all Arcand really does. (Even some of the moments that are brazen social and political satire tuck themselves into the characters so quickly that they lose their pointedness in the utter specificity of the narrative.) But I don’t think we can really do anything else. He doesn’t make Remy a saint, though we are tempted to think of him as a villain. He doesn’t make Sebastien a saint, even though we may be at times tempted to think so. Thus I felt nothing at Remy’s death other than a sadness at death.

Here is the first crux: I thought it remarkable that Arcand could put together a character like Remy, bring us in all of his painstaking selfishness to the brink of his death, and still confront us even with the utter gravity of the very idea of death through him. There is some serious poetry here.

I was impressed by that. That I cared little that this horrible man was dying, but he was dying. This is the same thing that confronts Sebastien. And he loses his dad. Even though this dad was never there for him, he does lose his dad. And since Arcand has made the film the way he did, when Sebastien does seem to come to forgive his father, I did not participate in this forgiveness. It was simply one of the acts of this unbelievably round character, Sebastien, that I witnessed as the viewer with no emotive direction from Arcand on how I was supposed to judge this forgiveness.

Basically, I found myself at the end of a film potentially seething with ethical questions as if I had done little other than see a really moving and deceptively simply story. One in which I was confronted with the gravity of the drama without having to make ethical decisions about the characters in order to make it work. Arcand simply cut out that middle-man.

SPOILERS
The one scene in which there are some serious ethical dilemmas is the final one. Since I don’t think that we are supposed to put our stamp of approval on Remy in order to understand why his death scene is sad, this is the only truly problematic scene of the film. We really have to understand the characters here to understand what is going on between Sebastien and Nathalie. Through the course of the film they came to grips with something. They each came to grips with who they are as a result of their parents infidelities, and they were able to lay these ghosts of the past to rest. To finally stand on their own two emotional feet and move on. And most importantly: they do this together.

Sebastien's inexplicable compassion for his father, regardless of motive, spills over into a compassion for Nathalie. In some sense, in having to deal compassionately with the cause he also discovers a need to deal with the effect. In this case, Nathalie.

An intimacy develops. A chain of emotional reactions is started. The relationship that grows between Nathalie and Sebastien is one borne out of struggle and pain. They have a deep and instant personal connection due to their past and through fighting their way out of that together, the inevitable occurs.

So. In the house. They kiss. Passionately and easily. They fit together so well. They have every reason to give into this. They deserve it don't they? They have a poetic connection, that alone is justification. Isn't it? Isn't that why their parents favored adultery as a lifestyle? So Sebastien is married, but this is different. This is something real and true.

Well, in that moment they both get a taste of that which motivated their parents generation. They are put into the sort of romantic situation that led their parents into the host of sins that led to the abandonment of their children.

And what happens? Nathalie pushes away. Sebastien quite willingly leaves. He actually flees. He gets on the plane and goes home with his wife.

I think we can only read that scene as it fits into the context of Decline and Invasion put together. We see them choosing to reject the moral patterns of their parents. In this scene we are supposed to finally come to grips with the moral implications of the storyline, and Sebastien and Nathalie choose the right direction to go.



So, after a long post, the long and the short is that the major strength of the film is that it is a good story before it is a moral tale. If we read the film this way, and really get inside of the characters, then we will find ourselves not having to excuse Remy's behavior to understand why his death is sad to everybody, and we will be able to understand the brilliant mechanics of the last scene. This film seems to be the kind of film in which we can develop a criticism of "listening." One in which we are simply forced to take the narrative on its own terms before we move to our moral reaction.

#24 Overstreet

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 11:44 AM

Thanks, Michael. Nicely argued. You've got me on a see-saw with this film.

I hadn't thought about the implications of Sebastien's choice at the end... I just assumed that his marriage was already hopeless. Is he choosing to be moral and committed to his wife, or is he flying home slowly realizing that as soon as they touch down he is headed right back to find Nathalie?

#25 M. Leary

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 11:53 AM

Specific rebuttals to flesh out my overall argument above

QUOTE
All of this is true, but you've overlooked the entire tone of the film, which is generous to a fault. We're clearly supposed to admire someone who took pleasure in pleasure, since that's true of all his friends as well.


I think this is a misreading of Remy's place in the narrative. The focus is more on the fact of death and dying than it is on its characters in the story. Even though the guy is a schlep, Arcand still shows us through him how death is simply a sad affair no matter who is involved.

QUOTE
I know that stef and Leary make a big point of Arcand's use of Heaven over the Marshes, but that just completely ignores the movie's much greater emphasis on how all his women get along. Look at how happy they are, look at how indulgent they are.


Years and years away from the incidences. Yes, people can become callous and numb enough to simply not care about those things. But his latest wife never really seems that comfortable with the facts of Remy's lifestyle. She is a bit of a reference point for us to see the damage this man has done. The "friends" that come in his waning days really only serve to highlight just how ignorantly selfish these people are.

QUOTE
I wouldn't be at all surprised if Arcand made a third movie in which these two characters get together.


If he did, it would be a really sad one. For the viewer who has seen the history of the Decline and the subsequent Invasions, it would be like watching an empire being built and then falling for the same reasons the one it conquered did.

QUOTE
And not to dump on Leary and stef, but I think you have to consider the audience for this film. How many people are going to see the film as a rebuke of Remy? Very, very few. Roger Ebert didn't.  
Dying is not this cheerful, but we need to think it is. \"The Barbarian Invasions\" is a movie about a man who dies about as pleasantly as it's possible to imagine; the audience sheds happy tears. The man is a professor named Remy, who has devoted his life to wine, women and left-wing causes, and now faces death by cancer, certain and soon. His wife divorced him years ago because of his womanizing, his son is a millionaire who dislikes him and everything he stands for, many of his old friends are estranged, and the morphine is no longer controlling the pain. By the end of the story, miraculously, he will have gotten away with everything, and be forgiven and beloved.


I don't think the film really offers a rebuke to Remy. I think it is set up in a way that allows us as the viewer to do so. Ebert isn't always right, and this is one place he seems to be off. I did not shed happy tears, I was really sad this all had to happen to these people. I really don't think the story allows us to think that he "got away" with anything. It is quite clear that his cursing of his son as "The Prince of the Barbarians" is the product of a warped and ridiculous mind. His son is the one who wins. As if there were really anything to win in that situation.

QUOTE
Certainly \"non-believers\" that I've talked to found it an engaging story about friends coming together to bond in someone's final days. They were touched by the warm camraderie on display and the movie's celebration of pleasure. No condemnation, no repentance necessary, no real desire to change even.


Well, good criticism should step in here and correct those faulty readings.

#26 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 04:53 PM

(M)Leary wrote:
: I was impressed by that. That I cared little that this horrible man was
: dying, but he was dying.

Yes, exactly!

: Well, good criticism should step in here and correct those faulty readings.

Yes, exactly!

#27 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 February 2004 - 03:56 AM

And now comes the Mark Steyn review:

- - -

It's the best part of two decades since Denys Arcand gave us The Decline And Fall Of The American Empire, a very Quebecois gloss on The Big Chill about a group of boozy, bed-hopping, bantering boomers connected one way or another to a university history department. They were in their prime, though they did not fully realize it. Eighteen years on, one of their number is now facing the biggest chill: death.

In his mid-50s, Remy (Remy Girard), a self-described "sensual socialist", is perforce heavy on the latter and lighter than he'd wish on the former. He's no longer banging co-eds, though the hairless head makes him look randier than ever. He has cancer, and, worse than that, he has it in Quebec. British audiences, disheartened by the state of the NHS, may find it oddly comforting to discover a G7 nation whose health care system rivals the crappiness of the United Kingdom's. As the film opens, Arcand's camera weaves its way to Remy's bed through a maze of corridors clogged with patients lying on gurneys hooked up to tubes snaking their way back to wherever the overflow started. In the course of the film, no doctor ever addresses Remy by his correct name.

His son, Sebastien, is rich and successful and living in London, doing something crass and vulgar with markets that Remy has never troubled himself to enquire about. He and his son are separated by more than the Atlantic. But, at the behest of his mother (and the philandering Remy's ex-), Sebastien flies back, is horrified at the conditions his father is being treated in, and contacts an old friend, now a doctor. Like most Quebecois doctors, he's now working in America, at a hospital in Baltimore that could help with the diagnosis if the chaps in Montreal were able to e-mail them a scan. Unfortunately, the only machine in the province that can do the scan is 90 minutes away in Sherbrooke and there's a six-to-twelve month waiting list, by which time they’ll have to dig Remy up to do it. Or he can have it done tomorrow, if he drives an hour south to Burlington, Vermont and pays $2,000. Unlike Britain but like North Korea, in Her Majesty's northern Dominion the public health system is such an article of faith that no private hospitals are permitted: Canada's private health care system is called "America". So Sebastien pays for a trip to Vermont.

He wants his dad to go to Baltimore for treatment, but Remy roars that he's the generation that fought passionately for socialized health care and he's gonna stick with it even if it kills him. So the cocky London dealer goes to work. He blags his way into the admin, and into the plush, pot-planted office of the head lady. He's noticed that, for some reason, the second floor is entirely empty, and he'd like his dad to have a room there. The lady explains that prioritizing individual needs is not consistent with "the Ministry's ambulatory thrust". So he bribes her, and he bribes the union, and he bribes everyone else he needs to until he gets his father a freshly-painted room on the abandoned floor. "You must be a friend of the Premier or a big hockey star," says the nurse to Remy.

And then Sebastien invites the old gang back -- his dad's buddies and mistresses -- to fill the room with good cheer, reminiscences of great blowjobs, and meditations on the state of the world. He even bribes some of Remy's former students, indifferent to his fate, to come and visit him in hospital and pretend they care.

Denys Arcand is a leftie, as almost all French Canadians are, but he's a leftie realist. I saw Les Invasions Barbares with a hometown crowd in Montreal and the biggest laugh went to a predictable George Bush sneer late in the picture. That must have been small comfort after 90 minutes of a rueful requiem for boomer assumptions. Arcand's film is an elegiac comedy, a difficult trick to pull off -- there's jokes, but the music is formal (Handel and suchlike). Remy and his pals were clever and witty and well-read, fiercely anti-clerical and, as they concede, subscribers to all the fashionable "isms". Yet, in Quebec as elsewhere, the "isms" decayed in practice into an incompetent suffocating bureaucracy. Arcand's title refers to 9/11, from a telly intellectual's analysis of the event. But it also describes what Sebastien does when he returns from London. He is a barbarian ("If only he would read a book. Just one!" rages Remy) but his barbarianism -- the hundred-dollar bills he spreads around -- gives his father his old life back.

Like the concern of his students, it's an illusion. But, consciously or not, Arcand makes the point very literally that the ability of the intellectual class to sit around making condescending cracks about capitalism depends on the likes of capitalists like Sebastien. Remy is emblematic of a certain type you find in the salons of the west: better, smarter, funnier than those unsophisticated Yanks, but ultimately a bystander in his own fate. For a man who's spent four decades rogering anything that moves, the "sensual socialist" is in the end impotent. There is a crudeness to some of the visual shorthand for Sebastien -- the cellphone and the discarding thereof is too tritely familiar an emblem for the heartless yuppie coming to terms with what really matters. But, conversely, the hyperliterate conversation of Remy and his friends seems at times like an excuse to avoid doing anything with oneself. A man who has "lived life to the full" worries about how little he's done.

This father/son picture is so much shrewder and thus more moving than the recent Big Fish. The performances are marvelous -- Remy Girard is always reliable but Stephane Rousseau (Sebastien) is someone I knew mainly as a stand-up comic. The women -- the ex-wife (Dorothee Berryman), the mistresses (Louise Portal, Dominique Michel) and a sad-eyed junkie (Marie-Josee Croze) -- are eloquent testimony to Quebec's most vital asset. I take issue with the film only in respect of Arcand's perplexing decision to show Remy and Sebastien going from Montreal to Burlington via the border post at Derby Line rather than Highgate Springs. This detail may not be so worrisome to British moviegoers.

The Spectator, February 21st 2004

#28 MattPage

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 04:08 AM

SAw this on SAturday and reading through the thread so far has been, as Jeffrey Said, a bit of a see saw.

Will post some more thoughts later particularly on the Sebastian, the crossing ideologies and the relationship between this Decline of the American Empire and Jesus of Montreal, Christianity as the heart of the Empire & Remy as a metaphor, but I've not got time for now. I just put that there so I could find the post again easily, and not forget what I was going to say about it.

Matt

Edited by MattPage, 10 May 2004 - 04:23 AM.


#29 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 03:48 PM

Did you see the DVD, Alan? There appear to be two versions on DVD in Region 1 -- a bare-bones American version of undefined length and a two-disc Canadian version that includes two versions of the film, one a 112-minute version and the other a 98-minute "wide release version".

Alas, no word yet on a subtitled Region 1 DVD release of Jesus of Montreal or Decline of the American Empire -- though you can get them both in French.

#30 MattPage

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 03:59 AM

: Any thoughts, Matt? I just saw it myself and and formulating my opinion...

Hi Alan,

sorry for not getting to this sooner - I've been putting this off for so long I can only remember part of what I was going to say - but here goes.


: the crossing ideologies

I think this was just aboiut how Remy starts of being very left wing and insisting that he will remain within the state heallth care system, and how his son is the opposite who has no qualms about using the health care system, and I guess that Remy basically eventually allows himself to get special treatment in that, but I seem to recall Sebastian makes moves towards his Dad's side of the line as well. Its possibly to do with their love interests, and how at the end Sebastian kisses the druggie girl, and its ultimataly she that pushes him away. It might have been tied in with how Remy was unfaithful, but loved his wife, wheereas Sebastian is faithful, but doesn't really love his fiancee, and how he ends up acting on his passions like his father, against what's in his best interests like he always has done. hmmm Mr coherent today!


: The relationship between this Decline of the American Empire and Jesus of Montreal, Christianity as the heart of the Empire & Remy as a metaphor

These really are all connected as I think the origins of this thread were quick to point out. The parallels are started in Decline by its title alone, similarly the titles of the other two films locate a level of meaning to Roman times. With Rome its generally accepted that Rome became rotten to the core morally, it became corrupt, self serving dominated by its sexuality, but rather than fall so dramatically it basically became a hollow shell of its former glory before being over-run by the Barbarians. This is where the third film comes in. In the first film he shows how that corruption is kicking in, how it is key amongst the elite (who were the first & worst in Rome), and his point is clearly that America (and its outposts like Canada he seems to be arguing) is the modren day equivalent to Rome, a huge empire with far reaching influence, but that has become corrupt. What ultimately happened is that Rome was overrun by the Barbarians and this is where this film joins in a bit more now the corruption is shown as being wider, you have drug addicts, everyone being bribable, not to mention the theme of how bad the healthcare system is.

I've really only sketched over that. It hink somewhere else someone did more details on how the barbarians attacked the edges of the empire first etc etc

Jesus of Montreal doesn't really fit at first glance, but I believe its another prediction of the Fall of the American Empire, only this time rather than linking it to Rome it links it to Jerusalem & the fall that occured there. Opinion is divided on Mark's gospel, and chapter 13 but many would see it as referring at least in part to the fall of Jerusalem, and some (such as Wrght ) would say Mark 13 and uch else of Jesus's teaching was solely about this coming fall. The crucial part of the film then is where Daniel staggers through the underground, quoting Mark 13, but really he is prophecying the fall of Montreal / Canada / America / Western Society, which has been paralleled with the corrupt aspects of 1st Century Judaism in the rest of the film. Then The final film comes along and picks up this theme, and I think there's something about how it ends with a "village" of people in the country.

Can't remember how Christianity was the heart of that empire at all. But the thing about remy as a metaphor was how he embodies so much of arcand's messgae. He is that corrupt, immoral person, once brilliant but now no longer recognised in his field, once the idela tht others aspired to now a broken down clapped out body on the verge of extinction, at his death only those closest to him mourn his passing.

I'm sure there was a lot more going on in my head 2 months ago, so apologies, if I made my insights sound better than they actually are now, but hopefully you get some of the gist of what I was saying.

Matt



#31 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 11:02 AM

You know what struck me on watching Jesus of Montreal for the first time in years at Flickerings? The scene in which the priest says "institutions last longer than individuals." I think it's quite striking that that very same character has a cameo in The Barbarian Invasions, in which he essentially bemoans the fact that, well, institutions can die, too. (I also found myself wondering how to reconcile the priest's claim in JoM that the church is packed every Sunday with people looking for answers, with the priest's claim in TBI that there was a specific time, maybe even a specific day, in the 1960s when all the churches in Quebec suddenly emptied.)

#32 MattPage

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 11:37 AM

Not to mention balancing that with the fact that the only really positive character in BI was Constance, who had notably chosen to devote herself to God more since we last met her.

Matt

#33 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 03:12 PM

Yes, Constance's becoming a nun, after being burned by the church the way she was in JoM, is very interesting. I wonder what happened to that theatre group that was supposedly going to be founded in Daniel Coulombe's name, and which was apparently being driven by that lawyer -- she joined it, didn't she? I also wonder what happened to Mireille, who was pretty much the only member of Daniel's troupe who didn't let the lawyer take over after Daniel was gone. It seemed to me JoM was suggesting that Mireille might have more integrity than Constance -- or perhaps there was a much bigger change in Mireille's life than there had been in Constance's, and thus the change to that change provoked a stronger reaction in her.

#34 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 02:56 PM

Whoa -- I just discovered this message board at CT.com, and there, someone writes that there are THREE characters from Jesus of Montreal who re-appear in The Barbarian Invasions:

. . . Soeur Constance, the Priest, but also the cop, the policeman (Roy Dupuis)who refused to the son to tell where he can find the drug for his father. In Jesus of Montreal, Roy Dupuis was the young cop assistant of the sergent détective (Claude Blanchard) who arrested Jesus (Lothaire Bluteau) on the cross on the Mont-Royal Mountain. After to detached him, Dupuis whispered to the ears of 'Jesus' that he was very impressed by his acting in the play.

I will have to watch these two films more closely next time!

#35 Persona

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Posted 09 August 2004 - 11:42 PM

I've been in a study this week on lifespan theories and, in particular, Eric Erikson and his theory of the Eight Stages of Life. This is probably old-hat to some of the more developed minds here at Arts & Faith, but it's new to me and i've found it quite intriguing. His idea that development is something that occurs over a lifetime, and that death actually represents an important part of life itself, keeps me returning to the character of Rémy, and now i can't get him out of my head. Rémy seems like the classic model to test the eight stages. We see his adolescent dilemmas that were either never really resolved or perhaps resolved negatively, setting him up for another negative resolution when he approached the next stage. And although Rémy obviously did make something of himself in life as he became an instructor of the highest honor, he still seemed plagued with the central questions of his own identity and role confusion. As previously stated, he found a lot of so-called "life" in hedonism, but after a time was only able to chalk it up to an escape instead of an encounter with his purpose.

I think the theory applies heavily toward the end of his life, though. The sixth stage is "Intimacy vs. Isolation," and reading straight from one of my handouts, "adults who do not resolve this challenge in a healthy way become stagnant on their own wants, needs and desires, and possibly become self centered, leaving no lasting mark for having been alive." Some of this is exactly what seemed to bother Rémy the most about his death -- that he'd been in situations where intimacy would have -- should have -- been involved, but yet there seems to be no one left to remember him, and no one to really care for him, and his fear is that he won't be thought of when he's gone. And then finally, we get to "integrity vs. despair," and this perfectly matches Rémy at the end of the film. He knows he has made mistakes, but knows that he can't go back and correct them, so why not think of Heaven Over The Marshes and that lovely actress's legs, because, well, there's nothing else to think of. There is despair over mistakes and lost opportunities, a despair that is heightened from the realization that for Rémy, life is over and that it's too late to change the outcome of his decisions.

Again, here's where i desire for anyone who has seen the film to go reader-response. It's time for an examination of yourself, it's time to look into the deepest part of you and say, "What am i here for -- right here, right now? Because if it's just for me, it's certainly the most useless piece of garbage life i could have ever imagined. What more is there and what is the quickest way to accomplish it?"

-s.

Edited by stef, 10 August 2004 - 01:28 AM.


#36 M. Leary

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Posted 10 August 2004 - 10:34 AM

Great stuff Stef, I as well think often of Remy's character.

Recently I was talking with someone who spoke positively about the film in a way that makes a lot of sense and says in a few sentences what I had to blather on for paragraphs to try to get across. As Christians we have to be for people. Even if we have been hurt by them or if they are suffering as the result of their own choices we have to be for them in our actions and attitude. Remy's son is a great example of what this looks like.

#37 Persona

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Posted 10 August 2004 - 10:45 AM

Yes, except that he assists his dad in self termination, an act most Christians deem as unethical.

-s.

#38 M. Leary

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Posted 10 August 2004 - 11:05 AM

Oh yeah, but talking about being "for" people is a way to see this film in a positive light. I still think the film is more than something that sentimentalizes a 60's era European hedonism.

#39 Persona

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Posted 10 August 2004 - 11:57 AM

Maybe we could say that he wants to be for the traits that he never saw in his dad's example, and that one of those traits is compassion? Seen in this light his act of taking care of his father is actually an expression of his desire to learn from him, whether he truly likes him or not. It also breathes more meaning into the final moments of the film (pushing her away, rejecting the example of the parents, etc.)

-s.

#40 M. Leary

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Posted 10 August 2004 - 02:52 PM

Sure, that is a good insight. But we can go even one step further and talk about being for people even if there is nothing positive about them at all, even if we get nothing from them. I have been trying to think of some films that embody this, but I can't really. I am sure there are a few characters we could conjure up.