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Movie Review: The Barbarian Invasions

Alternate Title: The Big Chill Via Canada

Story: You would think that a film about a dying man's last few weeks would be depressing - but guess what? It was decidedly upbeat, idea-filled, witty, thoughtful and very entertaining. Go figure?

Canadian writer and director Denys Arcand (he won Best Screenplay at Cannes this year) delivers a fine film about an easy to manipulate theme (when in the wrong hands). A dying left-wing professor somehow is able to gather his estranged wife, son, old friends and lovers (it is French) to his bedside where all is eventually mended. How we get to the mending is the crux and cleverness of the film. It is a character driven piece that very often takes some twists and turns that are funny.

Arcand used many of the same actors in his 1986 Decline of the American Empire. This so-called reunion is very effective.

When all is said and done it would be great to leave this existence surrounded by friends and family and on your own terms.

Acting: A talented ensemble Canadian cast featuring about eight actors, many who have worked together before - and you can sense that familiarity. Remy Girard as the dying man gave a balanced performance that could have been over the top. Marie-Josee Croze won Best Actress at the Cannes festival for her role (although I cannot fathom why).

Predilection: I like to see award winning foreign films. There is chatter about this film getting an Oscar nod.

Critters: None.

Food: It's French, via Canada, so of course there will be food (and wine).

Visual Art: Some interesting contemporary art at an auction and lots of Church art.

Blatant Product Placement: Swiss Air

Soundtrack: Unobtrusive to the point that I can't recall any music.

Opening Titles: Superimposed over the intro scenes in a badly overcrowded, work in progress, Canadian hospital. This film does not say a whole lot of good things about the Canadian health care system.

Theater Audience: A handful of people who were enjoying the film as much as we were.

Sappy Factor: 0 - It could have been a sapfest but thankfully, it was not.

Squirm Scale: There is a scene that explains the theory of the Barbarian Invasion that uses a clip of the second airplane crashing into the World Trade Tower. I was not prepared to see that and found it very disturbing. I could not pay much attention at a critical moment because of the imagery.

Predictability Level: Moderate.

Tissue Usage: My movie buddy used one tissue.

Oscar Worthy: Who knows what other foreign films will be on the menu for selection?

Nit Picking: No nits to pick.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine unless, like me - you need to see all of the award winning films.

Length: 90 minutes.