Tuesday, May 18, 2010

#152 Le declin de l'empire americain (1986)


Director: Denys Arcand

Cast: Dominique Michel, Dorothee Berryman, Louise Portal, Pierre Curzi, Remy Girard, Yves Jacques

Having read the plot summary for this film, I'm not sure what I was expecting. It's the story of four men and four women who are all neighbors and friends with very complicated love lives. For the majority of the film, the two sexes remain separate-- the men prepare a meal for the group at a country home while the women work out together at a gym. The entire basis of both groups' conversations are their many sexual exploits, most of which are bizarre and involve infidelity. Slowly throughout the film, it is revealed that most members of the group have slept with one another, only excluding the homosexual male, Mario, who seems to have some form of serious STD as a result of his "cruising" for sex in a local park. Eventually, after dinner and wine are served, secrets come out, and not all parties live up to their former open-minded boasting.

The film is undoubtedly sexually provocative, and I liked that it was focused on the sexuality of the middle-aged. What bothered me, I guess, was the overly-done crudeness of it. I'm not a close-minded or prude-ish person when it comes to talking about sex, but the "normal" characters acted in such ways that I found to be extremely exaggerated and unrealistic. If the value of this film is in the shock factor, then perhaps it is lost on my generation-- I'm sure it had a much different effect in the 80s, particularly the rather slanted, stereotypical view of homosexuality.

I guess I rated this film so harshly because it just didn't do the job. Making a provocative and pointed film about sexuality, infidelity, and marriage-- always interesting topics, sure. But this film just didn't hit the right note. It seemed far more focused on shocking, rather than revealing. I feel like it was, in a lot of ways, extremely reminiscent of the approach Woody Allen often takes on the subject, particularly in the film Hannah and Her Sisters. In some way, however, the banter, the noises, the nudity... just left me feeling repulsed and unenlightened. Definitely an interesting watch, but I don't think I ever need to see this film again.

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