Denys Arcand's Le Déclin de l'empire américain and Les Invasions barbares.


200 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-8020-9933-4
DDC 791.4302'33092




Reviewed by Anna Migliarisi

Anna Migliarisi is an assistant professor in the English Department at
Acadia University, Nova Scotia.


Andre Loiselle’s Le Déclin de l’empire américain and Les Invasions barbares, the second volume in the University of Toronto Press’s Canadian Cinema series, is a perceptive blend of formal analysis and cultural insight into two celebrated films by Deny Arcand—“twin texts” that, Loiselle claims, “crystallize perhaps better than any other works the evolution of the French-Canadian film industry since 1980.” Le Déclin (1986) was the first Quebecois film to garner international recognition, and first Canadian feature to be nominated for an Oscar in the foreign-language category. Arcand finally received the Oscar for Les Invasions (2003), the dramatic continuation of Le Déclin.


Conceived as a “conversation piece” reminiscent of Louis Malle’s My Dinner with André (1981), Le Déclin follows “a day in the life” of a group of intellectuals from the University of Montreal, gathered at a country home in Quebec’s Eastern townships for leisurely walks, delicious food, and revealing conversation on everything from philosophical thought to sexual politics. In the sequel, the principal characters, now middle-aged, reunite in the same idyllic setting to gather around “bon vivant” Rémy, who is dying of cancer. Loiselle’s study includes an overview of Arcand’s career followed by a detailed look at Le Déclin’s production, critical reception, and core thematic concerns set against the backdrop of Quebec cultural history. Having equated the filmic “death of the feminine” with the inevitable end of post-1980 Quebec referendum “separatist” masculinity, Loiselle turns to an insightful exploration of the stylistic features of the two films.


Both narratives unfold against a beautiful natural landscape and a heart-rending musical score, which Loiselle characterizes as deliberate counterpoints to the death and decline represented in the films. As we witness the characters set aside their bickering to take pleasure in the little time they have left together, the forces of nature, the bonds of friendship, and the delight in artistic creation prevail over “politics.” Thus while these works are generally viewed as a bittersweet meditation on the passing away of Quebec’s dream of sovereignty in the wake of “barbaric globalization,” Loiselle makes a convincing case for Arcand’s overriding optimism about Quebec culture and its prevailing cinematic achievements. This excellent study includes a filmography, notes and a bibliography.


Loiselle, André., “Denys Arcand's Le Déclin de l'empire américain and Les Invasions barbares.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,