DENYS ARCAND, the Quebecois director of Jesus of Montreal, has made a new film in which he visits characters in a film from 17 years ago. TOM DAWSON finds out what exactly he is up to.

The Barbarian Invasions is a sequel of sorts for Denys Arcand. Seventeen years after his battle-of- the-sexes satire The Decline of the American Empire, Arcand has dropped back in on the garrulous left-wing intellectuals from his earlier film. Things have changed: Remy (played by Remy Girard) is dying of cancer in a Canadian hospital, perplexed at how his cherished values have been destroyed by the juggernaut of global capitalism. I-lis old gang of fellow travellers gather round the bed, but do their camaraderie and irreverence count for anything in this era of American hegemony?

An affable 62-year-old, Arcand explains that he reunited the cast of The Decline of the American Empire because of ‘technical reasons. I was trying to make a film about somebody facing his own death and l was coming up with very bleak, very dark and very desperate scripts, the sort of thing I’d never see as a filmgoer. Then about three years ago I had the idea of going back to these characters. They are so cynical, so funny and so detached that I thought I could tackle this dramatic subject with a kind of levity and comedy. As for why I wanted to make something about death, well I believe as a filmmaker you should write about what you go through. When you grow older, you become more and more familiar, whether you like it or not, with illnesses and hospital corridors.’

Arcand, however, wants to clear up one misconception that has surfaced at 0&A sessions following screenings of the film. ‘I am not Remy’, he insists. ‘I am somewhere behind all my characters. The difference between me and Remy


Hard times in the Weege

One thing is for sure: we are certainly not about to enter the golden age of Scottish cinema. Between this film and the equally execrable (soon to be released) bucolic comedy thriller One Last Chance, Jockish screen may have just hit rock bottom.

Basically, Man Dancin' is a vehicle for Alex Ferns. better

known as evil Trevor in Feb.

26 THE LIST 19 Feb—4 Mar 2004

EastEnders. Ferns plays Jimmy Kerrigan. a con who has just been released after nine years inside. Jimmy has changed. A former Glasgow hard man, he has renounced violence and pins all his hopes on opening a little taverna in Greece. Predictably for him, his ex crime boss Donnie McGlone (James Cosmo) and corrupt detective Walter Villers (Kenneth Cranham) think his straight act is a front. and reckon he may want to set up his own inner ; city empire. Meanwhile. Jimmy ) is being press ganged into ' appearing in his local church's passion play by the benign Father Gabriel Flynn (Tom Georgeson) a bizarre experience that will change Jimmy's life forever.

This strange morality tale (part Get Carter part Jesus of Montreal) boasts some interesting performances from Ferns and Georgeson (Between the Lines) plus an excellent score and bit part (as a blind church hall musician) from the great Tam White.

Unfortunately it is also badly written (by American Cousins writer Sergio Casci), appallineg directed by TV drama veteran Norman Stone and mournfully paced. Regrettably inept. (Paul Dale) i I Selected release from Fri 20

Director Denys Arcand at work on the set of The Barbarian Invasions

is that he is a pure academic who has never done a thing in his life - he’s talked and he’s taught. l have made films all my life and I’ve worked like a dog! On my deathbed I hope I’ll be able to say that I worked as hard as I could and I gave it my best shot. The problem with Remy is that all he did was chase women - and that’s not enough when you’re facing death.’

Given that his last film, Stardom, was, in his own words, ‘a bomb’, The Barbarian Invasions proved


(15) 124min coo

Connolly and Kingsley are both compelling (as is Kingsley's fellow Oscar-nominee, Shohreh Aghdashloo. who plays Behrani's wife). But their efforts are undermined by first-time director Vadim Perelman‘s insistence on emphasising his stOry‘s symbolism (look out for recurring glimpses of a polished brass table. a reminder of the Iranian family's past glory). It's a shame. as the film makes some interesting points about the immigrant experience. and shows how the American dream can be as elusive and as illusory as a will 0' the wisp. (Jason Best)

I General release from Fri 27 Feb.

to be a huge hit (not least at the Quebec box office). ‘It won’t really change anything for me except that it will be easier to produce my next film which will be shot in Montreal,’ he says. ‘I thought that this was going to be my last film - that’s what I told the crew during the shoot. But the response to it has given me the energy to go on and make another.’

I The Barbarian lnvasions opens on selected release from Fri 20 Feb. See review. page 28.


A tiny, run down bungalow comes to embody the dream of a better life for two very different people in this melodramatic thriller. Kathy (Jennifer Connolly) is a recovering addict and. having inherited the house from her father she ends up being evicted thanks to a bureaucratic error. Iranian immigrant Behrani (Ben Kingsley). once a colonel in the Shah’s air force, then buys the property for a song at auction. hoping the investment will help return his family to their former prosperity.

So one has a legal claim to the house. the other. a moral one. But the conflict between them escalates. exacerbated by the well-meaning intervention of a local cop (Ron Eldard). until everyone is sliding inexorably towards disaster.

Based on a best-selling book by Andre Dubus lll. House of Sand and Fog aspires to the status of a modern tragedy. But the film takes such pains to establish a neat

symmetry between its antagonists that its resolution appears irritatineg contrived.


Over polished symbolism