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Denys Arcand’s The Fall of the American Empire is a hugely entertaining mash-up of crime caper and Ealing Studios comedy, driven by a mordant critique of the evils of 21st century capitalism. As a bonus, the film also offers those in need of it a detailed tutorial on how to move a billion or so dollars around the world through shell companies and “foundations” — the better to dodge detection and the tax man. The foundation “Save the Children” is always a good bet.

As Arcand would have it, the “moral rot” of the American Empire, inflamed by the omnipotence of money, has steadily crept up, like toxic sludge, to infect its neighbor to the North. The Canadian auteur is a charter member of that subset of filmmakers powered by passionate political beliefs — particularly anger over economic inequality (Others working this vein include Ken Loach, Ruben Ostlund, Aki Kaurismaki, the Dardenne brothers — and Bong Joon Ho, awarded this year’s Palme d’Or in Cannes for The Parasite. Alas, American filmmakers generally abstain from such themes, perhaps fearful that political critique will spell death at the multiplex.) Continue reading…

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Erica Abeel

Erica Abeel writes film features and reviews for, Filmmaker Magazine,, and Film Journal. She is the author of five books, including the novel, Women Like Us, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Her newest novel, Conscience Point, was published in fall 2008.