The Decline of the American Empire
Facts and Figures
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 1st November 1986
Distributed by: Koch Lorber Films
Production compaines: Corporation Image M & M, Societe Radio Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
The Decline of the American Empire Movie Review
Witness Denys Arcand's celebrated The Decline of the American Empire, a lauded film (which made my own top 10 list for 1986) that consists of little more than a series of conversations between men and between women and between men and women -- all about sex. From infidelity to disease, Empire runs the gamut of sex talk. The implication, one wonders, is whether this is what the decline of the American empire is all about -- and why is it happening in a French-speaking province of Canada? Never mind the accents, it's juicy gossip that proves that all of us -- men and women -- are dirty pigs.
Looking back nearly 20 years later, Empire's fire has dimmed considerably. Today, its psychographic vision of 1986 looks more like 1971, though the horrific hairstyles and fashions give away its era. But the bigger deal is Empire's breathless pontificating on perversion -- which looks almost quaint now, much like those risque sex comedies from the 1960s and 1970s (think Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice or Carnal Knowledge).
The other problem with Empire is its preachy structure. Empire is proud to be all talk and despite a scant handful of innovatively shot scenes (notably a very long tracking shot through a cavernous space, ultimately reaching two women sitting against the far wall), this structure gets tiresome, quickly. It's made worse by the fact that all of its stars (especially the guys) are painful losers (think Larry on Three's Company). Not only is it difficult to believe them as swinging hipsters, it's difficult to watch them for two whole hours.
Give Empire credit for giving Woody Allen a run for his money in '86, but its force has all but vanished today.
Aka Le Déclin de l'empire américain.