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Buena Vista Home Video (DVD), ASIN B0001XAPWE

If Benedict XVI looks for allies in his Crusade to reclaim Europe for traditional Catholicism, he will encounter a dazzling contradiction here. This French movie practically demands that sons honor their fathers -- yet produces a son who morphs the Old Man into a heroin addict. Simultaneously, it not only features forgiveness all around but even considers helping Ole Dad to end his one-man party.

dvd: the barbarian invasions The satiric tradition of Moliere's Imaginary Invalid emerges as we review the wicked book of Western history. At the center of the drama, a Canadian history professor personalizes conflicts that create constant media scandals: sexual shenanigans, imploding families, exasperated children, and helpless parents, who laugh repeatedly here. Do not expect a Frenchman to long for one more french fry on his deathbed Expect irony and intelligence long missing from the disaster flick scene.

This film casually tosses out the observation that "intelligence has disappeared" as it interweaves dramatic moments and social commentary. According to its records, "The churches emptied in 1966." The film's overview of the 20th century concludes that, when drugs invaded the West, "we called it 'the sexual revolution.'" The plot forces offspring to reckon with the unrepented sins of their fathers. What can a son say when his father lusts after every woman except his wife? Must he invite both Mother and rambunctious mistresses to Father's last vigil?

In a historical context, does this dying man bring to life the extravagance of the distant past -- or a much more recent era? Louis XIV would appreciate his love of the good life; Abby Hoffmann would understand his need for rebellion too. Where do sexual practices originate, or do they just flow like an underground river? Camilla Parker-Bowles could testify to the longevity of royal mistresses. Perhaps a "sexual revolution" just spreads the indulgences of the mighty around. A creative perspective on aging relics never provided so much fun before!

The central character, played by Remy Girard, enjoys his own wake-on-the-way. Thus screenwriter and director Denys Arcand conspires to make us ask: Does this qualify as the "good death" advised by moralists? No deathbed confession seems more moving than the paternal love wrung from the Old Man -- after being drugged into bliss. How sincere can this final embrace be? His wife's confession comes too late, too. Did the philanderer, who never let her visit his hideaway, really clutch his sick boy in his arms? This revelation illustrates fiction created for the dying, but it revives the living, instead.

A heroin addict, played by Marie Josee Croze, steals every scene in which she appears. Do angels now rise with hypodermics in hand, rather than rosaries? The acting in this film scores off the charts, but its moral vision remains so muddled that it may take another Vatican Council to divide wisdom from sentimentality. Still, with this high-spirited tragi-comedy, we pass into the heaven of artistic excellence. Does a comfortable death erase all illegal acts? See it and sit where critics feel the hot seat!

Meg Curtis

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