The Fall of the American Empire
Denys Arcand's thematic successor to The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions centres on a young man whose life is changed when he finds two bags of cash after an armed robbery.
As its title indicates, Denys Arcand's new film continues the investigation into modern society he began over 30 years ago with his remarkable and formative Le Declin de l'empire américain. If 2003's Les Invasions barbares was a sequel of sorts, revisiting many of the same characters, this new film is not. Nevertheless, it does complete a kind of informal trilogy that looks deep into Quebec society, its values, and its mores.
La chute de l'empire americain is built around the concept of money: what it means, how it is used, what value it has in our world, and what it can do to people. Arcand's protagonist, Pierre-Paul (Alexandre Landry), is a 36-year-old with a PhD in philosophy who ends up driving a courier truck, a line of work he believes he is too good for. A single event changes Pierre-Paul's life: he finds himself with a lot of money in his hands - and a choice. This money can provide him the lifestyle he wants, but it can also lead to numerous headaches, namely in the form of entanglements with both police and the criminal underworld. Pierre-Paul's decisions take him on an unlikely voyage where he needs all his wits to outfox his various pursuers, amongst whom are two rather different women: a young prostitute who can free him, and a young cop who can put him behind bars.
Arcand's probing intelligence turns the film into a subtle investigation of contemporary society, a society where the old social contract that once underpinned our interactions proves hollow. Marcus Aurelius jostles with Rousseau and Machiavelli in this witty and sardonic satire.
PIERS HANDLING, TIFF