By John H. Foote
Always a slow one as some of the major studios are still arriving.
THE FALL OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
French Canadian director Denys Arcand has been a staple with TIFF for as long as I can remember. His films The Decline of the American Empire (1986), Jesus of Montreal (1990), both Oscar nominated Foreign Language films, and his Oscar winning Foreign Language film, The Barbarian Invasions (2003) all played the film festival before moving on to Oscar and Genie glory. His masterpiece remains The Barbarian Invasions (2003) a haunting film about the right to choose how one will die, redemption and forgiveness.
Arcand is back at TIFF this year with the best film he has made in fifteen years, yes, since The Barbarian Invasions, a strong work that comments on the social scene in Montreal, the homeless, the destitute, and the profits of crime. Based partially on a true story, Arcand liberated the story and fashioned his own, which is often exquisite in the manner it unfolds.
After a courier finds two bags filled with cash, left behind during a botched robbery, Pierre-Paul (Alexander Landry) sees the chance to do some good with his ill-gotten gains. But the police know he has the money, they cannot catch him with it. He enlists a recently paroled biker to help him launder the money and a gorgeous call girl to be his partner in crime, each buying into his scheme. This starts a curious game of cat and mouse as they do their best to stay out of harm’s way as the mob closes in, and they mean business. Arcand is not shy about showing just how shockingly violent the crime lords in Montreal can be when betrayed.
The performances in the film are lovely, best of all Maripier Morin as the stunning prostitute truly with a heart of gold who falls in love with Pierre-Paul. Remy Girard, so great in The Barbarian Invasions, is wonderful as the biker who is one step ahead of the police and the mob in laundering the money, the trio making a strange friendship.
There is an act of kindness towards the end of the film that will leave you breathless with wonder that such things can still happen in the world. Watch the face and actions of the homeless man to whom they bestow a dream, a simple dream, but to the man, it is everything he ever wanted.
The movie is a sardonic satire but with great wit and deeply felt emotions. Thoughtful and thoughtful provoking, I loved every second of it.
Nice to see Arcand back with a great film…I have missed him.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.