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DENYS ARCAND Director & ScreenwriterAfter graduation, Denys Arcand went to work for the National Film Board of Canada where he directed COTTON MILL, TREADMILL (1970), a documentary about the abuses in the Quebec textile industry, which was officially banned for 6 years because of its allegedly biased point of view. Equally controversial, another politically-orientated documentary followed in 1972: QUEBEC: DUPLESSIS AND AFTER, which deals with the political aftermath of Quebec ex Prime Minister, Maurice Duplessis.
In 1972, Denys Arcand left the National Film Board and directed his first fiction feature, DIRTY MONEY, an ironic thriller involving theft and murder screened at the Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week, 1972). From then on, his films met both critical and popular acclaim. REJEANNE PADOVANNI is selected in 1973 by The Directors' Fortnight and The New York Film Festival, followed by STONE COLD REVENGE and COMFORT AND INDIFFERENCE (Best Film of the Year from the Quebec Film Critics Association, 1981). THE CRIME OF OVIDE PLOUFFE in 1974, based on Roger Lemelin's novel, set box-office records in Quebec.
In 1987, Denys Arcand wrote and directed THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE, his breakthrough film. Screened at Cannes Directors' Fortnight, the film was rewarded with the FIPRESCI Prize (International Critics Prize awarded by the International Film Press Federation). It was nominated at the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film Category that same year. In Canada, THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE received nine Genie Awards (the Canadian Oscars), the L-E Molson Award from the Quebec Film Critics' Association, and many more international awards. A hit on the festival circuit and with both critics and filmgoers, THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE became Canada's biggest screen success worldwide.
In 1989, his JESUS OF MONTREAL - which he edited as well - was the surprise hit of Cannes Film Festival official competition: it was awarded with the Jury Prize and the Ecumenical Prize. This dazzling mix of passion play drama, Catholic ideology and contemporary satire earned an Oscar nomination for the Best Foreign Language film directed and won 12 Genie Awards in its country.
After contributing a segment to MONTREAL SEXTET (Vue D'ailleurs) in 1993, which celebrated the 350th Anniversary of the founding of the city, Denys Arcand directed in 1995 the screen version of Canadian Brad Fraser's controversial play LOVE AND HUMAN REMAINS, shooting in English for the first time. He then went on to direct for television POVERTY AND OTHER DELIGHTS (1996), a film on the homeless; staring Benoit Briére and Gatson Lepage, it received 3 Gemini Prizes for Best Drama, Best Director and Best Screenplay from the Canadian Academy of Motion Pictures and Television.
In 2000, Denys Arcand's satire on fame, STARDOM was the first Canadian film ever to screen on the Cannes Film Festival closing night. It was selected by the International London Film Festival, as well as by the Toronto and Vancouver Film Festivals, and received the Writer's Guild Award for Best Screenplay.
In 2003 he won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes for THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS.
1986 - THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
I wrote this script over the last two years. The subject had been haunting me for a long time, but I never seemed to find an approach that felt right to me. It always ended up in bleak, depressing scripts. One day, it dawned on me I should reunite THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE cast of wonderfully odd characters; their sense of humour, their cynicism and their wits would breathe in the lightness I was aspiring to. It so happened all the actors were ready and willing to embark on a new venture. Obviously, with the passing of days, the mood was now darker and the inevitable, closer. It was time to take stock.
Rémy is convinced we have entered barbarian times. He believes that western civilisation, which started with Dante and Montaigne, is about to disappear. To him, what matters is the preservation of the written word, the manuscript, as in the Middle Ages. That will be Nathalie's task as she inherits his library.
The American Empire is the world's absolute ruler. As such, it will have to constantly push back the stream of barbarian attacks. 9-11 was the first that succeeded striking at the Empire's heart. The first of many more to come...
I feel more and more out of synch with today's reality. The most common sign of getting old, I guess. The constant acceleration of life and media roar are repulsive to me. I have little interest for digital films. I love dialogue and actors.
I believe that countries are vanishing. To the future generations, the notion of borders will be almost irrelevant. That's where Rémy's son is at. There will be American citizens on one side and non-resident aliens on the other. Seen from Washington, the French, the Bulgarians or the Japanese are one and the same thing: barbarians.
- Denys Arcand, May 2003