In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our team favourites? Let us know your thoughts!
#16 - The Decline of the American Empire
In the grand cinematic tradition of French (see also: Québécois) middle-class intellectuals talking explicitly about sex, Denys Arcand’s Oscar winner The Decline of the American Empire (Le Déclin de l'empire américain) is a classic of the genre.
It’s 1986, and four men prepare a dinner party while their four lady friends work out at the gym. Out of earshot of the opposite sex, the two groups swap ribald stories of sexual endeavour and infidelity. The chat rolls onwards to a memorable dinner party at which myriad personal cruelties will be revealed within the group, as the friends reveal too much and talk their merry band into collapse.
Arcand has packed the film with pithy lines and very funny moments; in one memorable scene, as the guys wax lyrical about the trials and tribulations of modern courting (having to dance and maintain conversation, heaven forbid), Arcand drops in a sly dig at Woody Allen (“Oh, me too, I looove Woody Allen’s films”, dripping in sarcasm). It’s a diss worth noting, because it’s Woody Allen’s neurotic observation pieces about sex and male-female relationships that Arcand’s film is most closely related to.
With an ensemble of top-shelf Québécois actors and sparkling dialogue by Arcand, The Decline of the American Empire may have lost some of its ribald edge in the intervening 26 years, but it’s lost none of its Gallic wit and charm.
- Nick Jarvis
“Subtle and witty in discussing sexual politics in the academic world, Denis Arcand's film deservedly won the Oscar for Foreign Film in 1986.” Emanuel Levy
To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here.