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The Decline of the American Empire Review

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Eight academics - four men and four women discuss sex and relationships, before, during and after dinner.

★★★★★

Seventeen years before Oscar, BAFTA and Cannes acclaim for The Barbarian Invasions, Denys Arcand eavesdropped on the same group of academics as they jokily discussed their philosophies of personal happiness.

Compared to the later film's politicised dinner table chat, the script here is narrower in focus but, with its tales of wife-swapping parties and gym obsessions, already something of a period piece.

Arcand satirises his characters' smug, insular lives by undercutting their intellectual superiority with emotional consequences, but it's tame compared to Neil LaBute's venomous attacks in the same arena.

Tame compared to Neil LaBute's venomous attacks in the same arena.