With “Testament”, filmmaker Denys Arcand descends into antiwokism

With “Testament”, filmmaker Denys Arcand descends into antiwokism


Denys Arcand ( The Barbarian Invasions , in 2003, The Fall of the American Empire , in 2018) seems to hold on to this figure of a man – his alter ego – reaching the age of reckoning, seeing life and his own country as he no longer recognizes walking past him without a glance. At 82 years old, the Quebec filmmaker has always shown himself to be more moralist (even moralizing) than director, and Testament takes all the coordinates of his cinema to the point of no return, even indigestion.

Or Jean-Michel Bouchard (Rémy Girard), a pre-retirement archivist who never had children and is patiently waiting for death to come and get him in his residence for the elderly. A series of incidents will somewhat shake up this dreary life, and make Jean-Michel the gaze through which Denys Arcand observes a Quebec which is wavering morally. It begins with an awards ceremony in which feminists took power, with Denys Arcand joining Eric Zemmour in making women – and a supposed “feminization of society” – the agents of intellectual collapse. The sequence is too poorly written, disastrously filmed, for us to see anything other than freewheeling misogyny and incredible formal ugliness.

White guilt

Then the heart of the film revolves around a historical fresco enthroned in Jean-Michel’s residence and announcing the genocide of the Mohawk Indians. Neither one nor two, a group of young white activists (led by two horrible young women, of course) are standing still to demand the destruction of this work which is offensive to the natives. Why not, moreover, deal with subjects which haunt all Western societies: white guilt, media hysteria, the replacement of a unified historical-political narrative by a collision of points of view.

Except that the filmmaker never rises to the level of the debates he raises, the analytical depth of his outbursts being able to be summed up in a desperate “Everything is gone!” » and “We can no longer say anything”, while women and youth are filmed as irrational monsters. By making Wokism the explanation of all the ills of his country, Arcand forgets, in passing, to take a meticulous account of his privileges, and in particular this one: he has one hour and fifty-five to say anything without be interrupted. In short, the old world is dying, the new world is slow to appear and, in this chiaroscuro, the “boomers” emerge.

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