“What I lacked,” he says, “was extravagance.”
INVASION OF THE BARBARIANS
An Illusion review by Joan Ellis
“Invasion of the Barbarians” does the best of all things. It tickles our curiosity lightly and then, draws us slowly into a moving family story where we are caught unexpectedly in the powerful mood of something much deeper than it first seemed.
Remy (Remy Girard) is dying of cancer in a Montreal hospital that is overflowing with patients – “I voted for Medicare; I’ll accept the consequences.” His wife Louise (Dorothee Berryman) - “I threw him out 15 years ago because of his women,” stands loyally by his bed and begins to rally the troops. In the modern way of the scattered family, a son lives in London, a daughter delivers yachts all over the world, a few old friends live here and there.
Remy’s estranged son Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau), an accomplished global financier, flies in reluctantly from London - “what will we talk about?” After saying hello, Sebastien wants to leave immediately, but runs smack into his mother’s iron will. He stays. With full pockets, he bribes union contractors to repaint a room on an empty floor, gets his father out of the hall, and summons former colleagues from the faculty at the university. Sebastien has decided to help.
Remy, it turns out, is a failed professor (no one noticed his departure), a failed husband, and failed father. What seems like the arrogance of a philanderer in early scenes turns out to be one man’s joyful appreciation of women. In a given moment, he is still charming. He is also the stubborn center of family bedside disputes. A tyrant one moment, in the next he cries at the sight of his ocean going daughter on a laptop email. Watch Marie-Josee Croze as Nathalie, the addicted daughter of Remy’s friend, who brings outlawed relief to the dying man.
Toward the end, a group of seven gathers round Remy at a lakeside cottage. It’s wonderful; they don’t visit, they are together revisiting their past. Remy: “I’d grown old, women had deserted my dreams.” “What I lacked,” he says, “was extravagance.” He wishes he had left a mark in the academic world. It’s at about that point that the audience sinks into the thoughtful silence of looking inward – and there we stay.
As for the title, Remy sees his son’s generation as the vanguard of the Barbarians, “Why doesn’t he ever read a book?” They are moneymakers and doers; they don’t spend time fitting together pieces of the historical puzzle and pondering ideologies as their parents did. Suddenly, the bedside television screen fills with the horrific sight of the plane crashing through the World Trade Center. In voiceover, the Canadian journalist rightly says, “The Barbarians have struck at the heart of the empire.” The feeling that the world will never be the same for anyone becomes palpable in the hospital and in the theater. How often have you wished for an intelligent script peppered with wit and insight, handed to you by thoughtful actors? Here it is.
Copyright (c) Illusion
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