Denys Arcand will turn eighty this June. It’s unclear whether he will make another movie on decline. But the movies he has made—always beautified by his wonderful cinematic taste, his ability to make Montreal a world in itself, and by his fitting selection of baroque—are worthy accompaniments for us as we think through our own situation.
Arcand’s films are not a substitute for the literature, from Polybius to Montesquieu, on political decline. One lesson one might draw from them, actually, is that a focus on the literature is an ambiguous thing. Indeed, one could imagine an Arcand character who enjoys declinist literature so much that he avoids confronting the problems in his own life or within society at large.
And yet, the problem of decline must be faced. Can the empire draw on hidden depths? Or is the future one of Neros and Caligulas—and maybe a Denys Arcand or two to write and portray, since what else can one do but write and portray when every avenue for effective action is blocked?
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor