La chute de l’empire américain (The Fall of the American Empire)

Poster for La chute de l’empire américain (The Fall of the American Empire)

“The rich grow richer and the poor are just collateral damage in The Fall of the American Empire. This new film by writer/director Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions), is a sardonic, solidly entertaining fusion of crime caper and state-of-the-nation rumination.

Money lies at the root of all the evils that Arcand observes. It is a haunting refrain in a film that mourns the growing number of homeless and the spread of food banks, while wagging a finger at corporate greed.

Thirty-something Pierre-Paul (Alexandre Landry, Gabrielle) appears to be the last apostle of decency in a rotten, callous world. He has a PhD in philosophy, is still burdened with student loans and earns a living as a courier. He has come to believe that intelligence is a handicap in a world that favours the corrupt and those who have abandoned any sense of morality or community.

Everything changes for Pierre-Paul when he is present at a botched robbery and makes an impulsive decision to pocket the multi-million dollar proceeds for himself. Trying to figure out what to do with the money and how much it might change him fuels a cleverly plotted ensemble piece that eventually draws in ex-con Sylvain Bigras (Rémy Girard; Incendies, The Barbarian Invasions) and escort Aspasie (Maripier Morin).

There are flaws in The Fall Of The American Empire, but it works thanks to the thought-provoking material in the screenplay, some sharp lines, and the quality of the performances. Alexandre Landry makes Pierre-Paul an endearingly naive, angst-ridden intellectual struggling to stay calm and survive an extraordinary situation. And Arcand regular Remy Girard is a scene-stealing delight as ‘honest criminal’ Bigras.” (Allan Hunter, Screen International)

“With its galloping pace and strange criminal bedfellows, this funny and engrossing film sometimes feels like the droll capers of the Ealing studio (maker of The Lavender Hill Mob among other small classics). But Arcand packs in a lot of pointed social and political commentary.” (Glenn Kenny, The New York Times)

“The film grows into a caustic comedy, rife with fidgety questions.” (Anthony Lane, The New Yorker)

“If Arcand’s worldview hasn’t changed, his angle continues to grow more acute. Where The Decline of the American Empire focused on social ills, and The Barbarian Invasions was preoccupied with ideology, The Fall of the American Empire finds the 77-year-old Canadian legend turning his attention to the greatest moral catastrophe of our time: money.” (David Ehrlich, IndieWire)