Friday, September 28, 2012

742. Le Declin de l'empire americain/The Decline of the American Empire (1986)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Denys Arcand
Written By: Denys Arcand
Main Cast: Remy Girard, Pierre Curzi, Dominique Michel, Dorothee Berryman, Yves Jacques
Click here to view the trailer


So "Secrets & Lies" comes along and serves the purpose of busting me out of my slump. Then I get to "Bull Durham" which threatens to throw me back into a slump, as it was ONE OF the worst films I've seen this season. Fortunately, Denys Arcand and his very dialogue driven film, "The Decline of the American Empire", came along and made sure that my slump only lasted for one day.

Like I said, the film is very dialogue driven, so I COULD just come here and say that the film is about a bunch of intellectuals who spend the duration of the film talking about sex and be done with my plot synopsis, but I'll give a few more details. The film is set in Montreal and does focus on eight intellectuals who are preparing to gather for a dinner party - four men and four women. On the male side you have Remy (Girard), a married man who loves having sex, especially when his wife isn't involved. Pierre (Curzi), a divorced man who is currently seeing a much younger student, Claude (Jacques), a gay man and Alain (Daniel Briere), a single student. On the female side you have Remy's wife, Louise (Berryman), Pierre's girlfriend, Danielle (Genevieve Rioux), Dominique (Michel), a friend of the group who has had relations with both Remy and Pierre and Diane (Louise Portal), a second friend of the group who is currently involved with a sexually dominating male partner. The first half of the movie shows the men at home, preparing the gourmet cuisine for a dinner party that is to take place involving everyone and the women at the gym, working out before dinner. At home, the men discuss their sexual exploits, their affairs, their turn-ons, turn-offs and basically anything that pertains to their sexual activity. At the gym, the women do the same, discussing their affairs and their current and past sex lives. The second half of the film sees the women arrive home and the commencement of the dinner party, where the intellectual and sexual talk continues.

THE BOOK offers up a fantastic line about this movie that I couldn't agree with more: "...we may not like these people, but they're ceaselessly fascinating to watch." As I was watching this movie, I was, for an unexplainable reason, attracted to these people. I quickly formed a interest in them, almost like a scientist would observe a lab rat and despite the fact that I thought they were despicable human beings (specifically Remy and Pierre), I couldn't help but be fascinated by their conversations and interactions. I was able to draw comparisons between these characters and the types of characters that we'd normally see in a Woody Allen movie, except these characters were far more snobbish and insincere, they were heartless. I kept asking myself do people like this really exist, it's as if these characters were from another planet, yet, I say again, I loved every minute of this film.

I love hearing people talk, what can I say. You could sit two actors down at a dinner table, give them a script with interesting dialogue and given the proper care, that would be just the type of movie for yours truly. In fact, isn't that what "Dinner with Andre" is about? If so, I really need to see that. Anyway, there's not much else to say. I had a really good time with this one, I was drawn to the script, to the characters (despite their unlikeable characteristics) and the barely there plot. The film also reminded me, very much, of "The Big Chill" except with a lot more talking, a lot less plot and more devious characters. The other interesting facet about this movie is the title and how it relates to the characters. The characters, throughout the film, tend to discuss the decline of the North American society. The ironic thing is that these characters are actually perfect representations of that decline, the fact that people like this exist in our society and how despicable of human beings some of them actually are.


You know me and my theories, so here's one for you. I had this crazy idea as I watched the movie unfold. At the end, when Louise discovers what a cheating bastard Remy has been, she goes to Claude and buries her tears in his sweater. Now, Claude is an admitted homosexual, but also (early on in the film) eludes that he could be bisexual, noting that he'd have sex with anyone, if they were the right person, at the right time. Claude also presumably has HIV/AIDS or at least he has some sort of venereal disease, which is made clear when he pees blood, early in the film. Now then, lets say Louise goes to Claude in a moment of weakness, crying into his sweater and pleads with him to fuck her, citing that she needs to have some revenge sex. Claude was one of the most understanding, caring characters in the film, so it's not a long shot that he'd indulge her. Maybe he'd even tell her about his pending disease and she wouldn't care, because her world has just been shattered, as she's just learned that her husband has filled every hole in Montreal. Anyway, they have revenge sex and then Louise, knowing that she's just had sex with a man who probably has AIDS, goes back to Remy and pretends to be okay with his exploits and begs him to have sex with her, spreading the disease to him as her ultimate act of revenge. This way, we're given a pretty heavy bit of plot, a great little revenge anecdote and the most despicable of all the characters, Remy, gets his just desserts. Just a thought. As I was watching, this is actually what occurred to me as soon as I saw Louise run to Claude.

RATING: 8/10  Anywhoo, great movie and if you're a dialogue lover like myself then this is, indeed, a must see.


September 28, 2012  4:23pm


  1. Well, if you didn't like a film where intelectuals just talk, mostly about sex, you wouldn't like woody allen..

    It's far to long ago since I watched this one to give a proper bit of feed back, but I know I very much liked it at the time.

    1. Oh yes, the Woody Allen appeal was high here. This one was right up my alley.


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