Canadian director Denys Arcand’s The Fall of the American Empire plays the Salmar Classic on Saturday, Sept. 14. (File photo)

Coming soon: The Fall of the American Empire a clever comedy-crime drama

Cinemaphile by Joanne Sargent

The working title for veteran Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand’s latest film was Triumph of Money, but for release he titled it The Fall of the American Empire.

Ironic, as his French-language crime caper is set and shot entirely in Montreal, but perhaps his implication is that greed is what will ultimately lead to the fall of modern society.

The 77-year-old writer/director addresses what he considers the greatest moral crisis of our time: money.

Pierre-Paul considers himself a standup guy. He has a PhD in philosophy, although feels his intelligence isn’t sufficiently appreciated. He’s pretty disillusioned with the world, yet volunteers at the food bank and gives to the homeless. He’s seriously underemployed as a courier driver and on one of his deliveries, he happens upon the aftermath of a botched robbery. Two bags of cash are left unattended in the street and impulsively Pierre-Paul throws them in his truck.

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Will Pierre-Paul decide to keep the money? Will the windfall confirm his suspicions that riches and virtue cannot be bedfellows? On the subject of bedfellows, his first use of the money is to hire a beautiful call-girl for her services. She’s well-connected and, with her help, he enlists a career criminal to help “manage” the dirty money, and a financial wizard with the power to launder it. The trick is to stay ahead of both the cops and the crime bosses whose cash he has stolen. But how will it end?

Arcand delivers a clever comedy-crime drama while giving a master class in the shifting of dirty wealth around the globe. Variety called The Fall of the American Empire “a richly amusing rumination on the excesses and amorality of capitalism.” Packed with social and political commentary, the movie is a surprisingly endearing, big-hearted caper with great dialogue, fine acting and a feel-good sentiment at the end.

The Fall of the American Empire has two showings on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Subtitled, the movie includes a couple of quite violent, explicit scenes.


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