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The Decline of the American Empire (1986)

Dominique Michel , Dorothée Berryman , Denys Arcand  |  R |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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The Decline of the American Empire + The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares) + Jesus Of Montreal [1989] [DVD]
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Product Details

  • Actors: Dominique Michel, Dorothée Berryman, Louise Portal, Pierre Curzi, Rémy Girard
  • Directors: Denys Arcand
  • Writers: Gabriel Arcand, Denys Arcand, Catherine Ruelle, Jean-Claude Lauzon, Louise Vandelac
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Koch Lorber Films
  • DVD Release Date: October 5, 2004
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002KPI3M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,032 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Decline of the American Empire" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description


You've never seen a sex comedy quite like The Decline of the American Empire. That's because there's no sex in this comedy--just a lot of entertaining talk about it (and a few discreet flashbacks). The speakers are eight Montreal academics. For most of the film, the men--Rémy (Rémy Girard), Claude (Yves Jacques), Pierre (Pierre Curzi), and Alain (Daniel Brière)--fix dinner while talking about sex. The women--Dominique (Dominique Michel), Louise (Dorothée Berryman), Diane (Louise Portal), and Danielle (Geneviève Rioux)--work out while talking about sex. That evening, they all gather for dinner... and talk about sex. The Decline of the American Empire made the reputation of writer-director Denys Arcand, but his greatest success would arrive 17 years later with The Barbarian Invasions. In that 2003 Oscar-winner, Arcand revisits the lovably loquacious characters from the first film, all of whom are older, wiser--and just as obsessed with sex. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable watch, though not as good as its sequel. October 31, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
I guess like a lot of other viewers, I hadn't watched "The Decline of the American Empire" until after I had watched its sequel. Four men and four women get together in a house by the lakeside in Quebec and what follows will keep you engrossed till the end. Director Denys Arcand has the characters play out how they would spend a normal holiday, but "normal" for them has a slightly different meaning than for us ordinary folks.

There's a much younger Remy, the professor at the University of Laval, womanizer par excellence, alongside his (comparatively) straightlaced wife Louise. Pierre, the host, is seeing Danielle, a history student at the university, who was his masseur at a parlor where he is a regular. Their gay friend Claude lives alone because of his compulsive urges to cruise. Then there's the naive and innocent Alain, both Remy and Pierre's ex-mistress Dominique and finally Diane, who's in a BDSM relationship with a guy who scoffs at Claude's Russian trout dish, wine and pilsner but still turns him on as he resembles one of his ex-lovers. The movie follows their conversations over the course of the day, the night and the next morning, interspersed with flashbacks. As Louise says to the BDSM guy, intellectuals love to talk ... and boy, do they talk! Constantly trading barbs, reeling off historical accounts, offering informed opinions on issues (though not as engaging as those in the sequel) and above all, discussing their sex lives (which are nothing short of spectacular) ... the interchanges won't feel dull for a moment. Remy, as usual, is utterly lovable in his depravity.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let's talk about sex March 12, 2005
By Bomojaz
Four middle-aged successful couples examine the sexual revolution. The men all meet and talk (they are preparing a dinner), and the women all meet, too (in a gym). The movie is almost all talk as each person reveals his or her own story and feelings. They then all meet and talk some more, and some illusions are destroyed via certain betrayals. It's rare to see such a sophisticated film, though it's very stagey and not very dramatic. (At one point a man, not part of the group, says, "All they do is talk about sex and then sit down to a fish dinner.") An interesting picture, though, for the most part. In French.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
One of the warmest, coolest and most bracing films I have seen. I cried with laughter and sadness and realisition at a film that is refreshingly bold about human weakness and strengths. Very funny, stirring, sad...true. SEE THIS FILM.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Decline of the American Morality January 15, 2011
I glanced at some of the reviews before I watched this film. I found them helpful and they almost made me skip the movie. However, I make it a habit to watch as many of the Best Foreign Language Oscar nominees as I can and this is one of them. I was also put off by a French movie with such a title until I realized that this is a French Canadian movie. Well, THEY certainly have a right to their opinion on the subject.

It didn't take long before I was seeing (and hearing and reading) what the reviewers were talking about. The movie goes back and forth between the women at the gym and the men at the house. (That was an interesting touch; the women were working out and the men were home preparing the meal). With each segment we hear the men and women talking about their sexual escapades; past and present. The bragging, and laughing, and more lets us know that these are friends who enjoy each other's company. It gives us a sense of being in a comfort zone of often uncomfortable converation. In time, after we already know who did what with whom, the groups get together at their planned get together. The subject remains the same but the tone is a bit different. Eventually, after too much bold talk fueled, in part, by too much alcohol, someone goes a step too far and the cameraderie is altered.

There comes a point when the movie's title is discussed. By that time, we have seen enough of what should be the real underlying meaning of the title. The joke is on the participants who fancy themselves as intellectuals because they are college professors. The lack of any real commitment shows the fragility of the relationship involved; the long-term ones, the recent romances, and the possibilities that are just coming to light. One senses that, after a night of encountering their shallowness, they'll readily return to their definition of normal.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Misleading title February 20, 2005
Oswld Spengler wrote "The Decline of the West" before world War I and the title of this movie suggests a parallel cultural history or documemtary of the present.Far from it . A very frank sexual discussion ,among men, casually mentions that female dominance is a characteric of the decline of a civilization. The female viewpoint is equally well formulated and expounded in an interview.The subtitles lack the elegance of the French- Quebecois,20 years have passed and the subject has lost nothing of his luster. I loved it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, uneven, choppy December 10, 2007
"Decline of the American Empire" is a difficult movie to define, mainly because it straddles both European and New World cinematographic tendencies (i.e., ponderous and talky on the one hand, ponderous and talky about sex on the other). Briefly, it's the story of four or five friends who, with one exception, discover that their relationships are in decline -- disintegrating because they come to know more and more about themselves and their lovers. Is it supposed to be some complex metaphor that somehow ties back in to the movie's title? That's never really clarified. But the dialogue is fun (Quebecois French, English subtitles), and the characters aren't sympathetic enough to make you feel sorry for them, so you can, in a detached way, enjoy their suffering in this offbeat comedy drama farce.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good price-bad movie
Published 1 month ago by glenn nystrom
5.0 out of 5 stars What a glorious decline
This is an old movie. The action takes place in the rarified atmosphere of the French-Canadian academia. Read more
Published 7 months ago by medfair
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Beginning to an enthralling Saga!
This later but earlier introduction to the Barbarian Invasions story is very good and fills out some of the characters of the later film. I enjoyed it immensely!
Published 10 months ago by Alan Kierkut
1.0 out of 5 stars Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk, No Action, No Plot
I keep being surprised at the praises this film has been getting. This film is the epitome of talky. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Thomas O. Meinen
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, intelligent, often funny, talk-fest about sex.
Sort of a French-Canadian 'Big Chill', but smarter, if less emotional.

There really isn't a plot. Read more
Published on March 21, 2011 by K. Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, intelligent, often funny, talk-fest about sex.
Sort of a French-Canadian 'Big Chill', but smarter, if less emotional.

There really isn't a plot. Read more
Published on March 21, 2011 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic comedy in the European mode
Although this film came out over two decades ago, it is still fresh and funny and right on target with the observations on the nature of human relations. Read more
Published on January 9, 2007 by Grant Hogarth
4.0 out of 5 stars a bunch of horny intellectuals talking about sex...
...which by itself is not a bad foundation for a movie, the thing is these are French-Canadian academics, with a strong emphasis on the "French" part. Read more
Published on June 15, 2005 by Eduardo Abdullah Nagasaki
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