This is a very well done French-Canadian film about eight friends meeting for a dinner party out in the country. Three middle-aged men and a one young man are already at the manor where the dinner will take place, preparing the meal and discussing their sex lives. The remaining party guests, three middle-aged women and one young woman, are spending the day at the gym, exercising and discussing their sex lives.
Eventually they meet up at the country manor for dinner, and the conversation continues. While this may sound like not much happens, the film is never boring, and the direction by Denys Arcand keeps the viewer visually interested. I'm also keeping the character descriptions purposely vague, as their relationships to one another are revealed slowly as the film progresses. The dialogue is frank, funny and sharp, and all eight characters are fully-drawn human beings. I especially like the notion that these eight characters who seem to speak non-stop and at times overshare in the extreme, can't seem to honestly communicate when it matters most in their lives.
The title refers to a historical adage that when members of a given society begin to think about their own individual happiness above every other concern, that society is doomed. The characters' romantic navel-gazing and at times destructive pursuit of happiness seems to signal our own societal sunset. But don't let that heavy thought steer you away from the film, as it's brilliantly acted and well worth a look.
The sequel, "The Barbarian Invasions", made 17 years later, is also very worthwhile.
A group of academics at the University of Montreal--most long time friends--plan to gather at the lakeside recreational home of Rémy and Louise, who have been together for 20 years, married for 15 of them, for dinner. Louise knows Rémy cheats on her, but believes he only does so when she is not around, which she accepts. Their recreational home is adjacent to many of the recreational homes of the others, who are: divorced Pierre and his much younger current girlfriend Danielle who is a student at the university; divorced mother Diane; independent-minded Dominque; single homosexual Claude; and graduate student Alain; While the four men prepare the dinner, the four women are working out together in the gym. The common factor between the two groups is the topic of conversation: sex, especially as it relates to themselves. But underlying each of the conversations is their own academic and intellectual backgrounds, which shapes the nature of the discussions. When the two groups finally converge for dinner, a ninth person is added peripherally, brusque working-class Mario, Diane's current sexual partner. This relationship is a first for Diane in that not only their sexual encounters but the way they interact with each other in general is predicated on S and M, dictated largely by Diane, the submissive. What happens with the group as dinner goes into evening and evening goes into morning is further shaped by them listening to a prerecorded interview Dominique did for CBC Radio earlier in the day to promote her new book, which discusses how the quest for individual happiness in modern western society is leading to the decline of the society in general.
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