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L'Argent Reviews

Page 1 of 7
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

June 3, 2010
Two young men pass a counterfeit bill off to a photo shop, who then (knowingly) passes it off to a delivery man. This starts a chain of events during which the delivery man's life spirals right into the toilet, culminating in his commission of a horrific act. It took me two viewings to finally get what was going on.

The first time I watched this film, I couldn't quite follow the story, due to Robert Bresson's directorial style. It can best be described as "yada yada". He tends to leave out the boring bits -- exposition and such -- and just shows us the meaty parts. It reminds me of someone showing me photos of their vacation. A video would give a fuller picture the trip, while the photos only hit the highlights. Bresson also uses non-professionals as actors -- I'm told he called them "models" and directed them to speak in a somewhat monotone pattern, and then it was up to the audience to gleen the emotion from the scenes, based on the dialogue and direction.That can at times make the acting seem wooden and formal, but it some ways it actually works.

Anyway, the 2nd time around (and after viewing another Bresson film and getting a feel for his style), everything was more clear. Can't say I ENJOYED the film -- it's a crime/murder drama -- but I don't feel like I wasted the couple of hours (x 2) that I spent watching it.
Eric B

Super Reviewer

August 25, 2011
You are reading in a large campus library. Your ear picks up a sound. In the distance, someone in dress shoes walks toward your section. Her heels coldly resonate on the tiled floor. Click, click, click, click. The sound grows louder as she nears. Click, click, click, click. Distracted, you lift your eyes and frown. She finally passes, unaware of your irritation. Her steps fade slowly -- too slowly -- as she continues onward behind your back.

Until "L'Argent" mercifully switches to a rural setting near the end, the entire film is like this. Torture. You've never heard so many footsteps as characters numbly, silently tread through various rooms and hallways.

But the aggravation doesn't stop there. The cast's body language is so bloodless and repressed that your mind may scream at director Robert Bresson to just let his actors be human. Observe the unnatural hand movements. The stiff postures. Even a brief scene where a clerk completes a camera sale turns exasperating. It's shot as if he's a magician doing card tricks.

This and Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives" (neurotic shaky-cam) are the only two films I've ever seen that actually gave me a headache.

Based on a Tolstoy short story, "L'Argent" shows how money corrupts via the impact of a single counterfeit bill. Two schoolboys buy a trivial picture frame, only because they want change for a forged, 500-franc note. The naive shopkeeper is later berated by her husband for accepting the money, but she points out that he took two phony bills the day before. Literally passing the buck, he unloads all three bills on a delivery man, Yvon (Christian Patey, just one of the cast's unknown, seemingly untrained actors).

When Yvon innocently tries to pay for lunch with the money, the waiter calls the police. Yvon is arrested. He avoids prison but loses his job. This sends him into a downward spiral of crime that costs him both his freedom and family.

Bresson's mimimalist style does have its intrigue. As with some of his other films, there is no musical score. Perfunctory behavior is dwelled upon, while crucial action occurs off-camera. The film is over well within 90 minutes. Its brisk, clinical pace is remarkably distinct. But at what price? Is a movie successful when a tragic story breeds no empathy whatsoever with its characters?
October 9, 2013
There are definitely flaws here, but there is something super great about L'Argent. I can't think of another film that so succinctly conveys the cascading effects of one person's (criminal) decision. But unlike most films that focus on the original criminal, or perhaps the victim, this follows the ripple effect in society.

There are a couple of sticky plot points that weren't made clear, and the main character, Yvon Targe (Christian Patey), is a guy that is hard to connect with. But the over all arc is strong enough to over come these weaknesses.
November 13, 2006

A daring experiment gone not-so-horribly wrong, I hate to sound like a lemming saying this but, I found this film pretentious to the point of insult and downright boring.
September 27, 2012
This is one of the most baffling films I've ever seen. I love the writing. I love the pacing. But the acting is so unnatural and so emotionless that it could only be intentional. Bresson can be a great director, even with his minimalist touches, but this is just distracting. L'Argent is such a tragic story and could be very powerful and moving. But with the universally wooden performances of tense and rigid "actors" it's really hard to care. If someone could explain to me why this was a good choice, I'd love to hear it.
July 6, 2013
Fascinating adaptation of a Tolstoy story is the perfect final film from director Robert Bresson.
April 19, 2013
Powerfull film, one of Bresson's finest works
December 30, 2012
Viewing Bresson's last film, I immediately got the feeling that the camera was set up too close to everything. Of course, this is entirely due to Bresson's longstanding penchant for filming the process of doing things; we see hands open doors, feet climb steps, and a variety of other manual actions that make up the larger behaviors of the characters in the story. This story, drawn from Tolstoy, is about the effect of a counterfeit 500 franc note on the people to whom it circulates. Unfortunately, I watched this with the worst subtitles ever and the plot remained somewhat elusive -- but I gather this might have been the case anyway. Yvon, the central character, is Bresson's fall guy who unintentionally passes the counterfeit note, gets caught, loses his job, and then his moral compass, descending into a life of crime that is finally horrific. Yet, Bresson treats everything methodically and his actors remain expressionless throughout, generating a strange intensity and making the film, at only 85 minutes long, fully compelling. The moral here may be a simple one, that money is the root of all evil, but Bresson's strategy of demonstrating this is largely oblique.
September 26, 2012
The first film that comes to my head when I think of what a perfect film is.

In the French master's last film, he gives us a demonstration of how society narrows us down to criminals, or narrows us down to BE criminals. It tells the story with multiple characters, but that is just to get around and expand on certain barriers in the story, but I certainly prefer it that way. It's style is one that became influential, and it certainly fits this film. If you don't understand why this is perfect, allow me to expand; the cinematography is constantly in affect and never skips a beat, it's construction around multiple characters is so simply done, but is so refreshing and is a reinvention of it (compared to "Nashville" (1975), let's say), and it's so bleak that it never catches itself off guard, but we still feel the full power of it. But, even though it is so evenly amazing in every aspect, a lot of what I'll remember will come from it's masterful cinematography. *Spoiler* Particularly the last scene where the camera follows the dog as he discovers the murders just a second before they occur. Wow, was that brilliant. Also the scene where it just shows the lighting from under the door, and the opening shot, and how we later figure out what it was. Well, anyway, while there is so much said and to be said about this perfect masterpiece, it barely says anything on the surface, and I think that is why I admire it so dearly.
June 10, 2012
Far from being the master's best, but still an essential-viewing.
March 27, 2012
I remember having really enjoyed Pickpocket, probably because I'd just read Crime and Punishment and loved it, and was eager to get at more Bresson. I love the idea behind using nonprofessional actors and "stripping them down" the way he does, but in practice here it makes for unbearably stiff performances that are just hard to watch. And the hyper-minimalist script doesn't help. And I usually love plain production and transparent acting. Bresson may have had some arty ambition of distilling away the artifice to reveal some highfalutin truth, but in the end I think he overcorrected, because it feels pretentiously artificial to the core. About as flavorless a movie as I've ever seen. No thank.
April 28, 2011
Um filme pesado, frio. Possuindo um ponto de vista proprio, narra os acontecimentos em sua natureza propria, nao apenas a partir de personagens (algo salientado de maneira unica pela direcao, cheia de planos-detalhe). Primeiro, segue o dinheiro em golpes e trapacas. Depois, aborda seus efeitos sobre os personagens. Esta tecnica narrativa propria da obra faz ele funcionar como pequenas historias unidas somente pela cede voraz pelo dinheiro, a maior culpada. Pela falta de dialogos, pela forca dramatica e, principalmente, pela forma com que sao abordados os atos desta analise criminal da sociedade, esta obra ganha dimensoes globais (mesmo sendo possuidora de uma forte moral catolica).
Bobby H.
June 17, 2010
? Intriguing spiral events based on a petty crime
? Uncharacteristic cold atmosphere
? Unfocused and underdeveloped narrative

In his last film, Robert Bresson attempts a psychological study of man in the lowest and most depressed part of his life as the cards fate hands him go terribly wrong. A spiral of events start from a petty crime done by two teenagers whose forged money, exchanged in a store, lands an unsuspecting youth in dire straits.

Bresson paints a black and white universe where a single person is continually being tricked, harmed, and manipulated by a large mass of people whom see money as the sole source of motivation. This young man, named Yvon, is unable to rise from this elementary act of manipulation, and due to loss of his job, falls into crime, and eventually jail. Loss of members of his family and time in solitary confinement make this bumpy ride all the more psychologically abusing which contributes to the young man's eventual downfall.

Bresson paints this film in a world of coldness, bitterness, apathy which does suit the character's infatuation with money quite well; the problem lies in the desire of the film for the audience to feel sorry for the main character. I must respond, for what, and even if there was a sufficient answer to such a question, why? The true arbitrators of the immoral acts that land the main character in prison don't crack a smile, shed a tear, or show any remote sign of emotion through the entire film; however, that could be excusable, being blamed on their sheer interest in money and unconcerned about the method of its gain. However, the sole character, himself, seems to lack the faculties of emotion, with no true recognizable emotion toward his wife-besides placing his hands on her shoulder or back. During her sole visit with her husband in prison, his wife reminds
him that they should not resolve to fighting in such a condition as they never have quarreled before. This is not such a difficult concept considering that these people don't exist-not because they are in a film-but mainly due to the fact that most people expend energy and emotion rather than function as pre-programmed citizens in a world taken over by money and deceit. However, this is still excusable if the film did not demand us to feel sorry for these characters who could not express "sorry" if you asked them.

Another issue with the problem is the unfocused narrative of the film. There are scenes, such as the introduction of the protagonist, that seem fuzzy and unclear, and for some individuals a second watch may be required so that certain ambiguities become clear. A narration would not be necessary, but due to the apathy of the characters, it would help the film progress more smoothly and seem, at certain points, less tedious.

There is no doubt that Bresson intended this chilling atmosphere to resonate through the entire film, but unfortunately this style of his overpowers the film and the philosophy he intends us to infer from it. By the end of the film, we have not seen a film that displayed to us the root of all evil, or a critique of French society, but we have witnessed a film that is depressing; so depressing and banal that any message that lays within it seems void, empty, and uninteresting.
October 26, 2009
My least favorite from Bresson so far, but still a very solid & good film. It tells a story of how a forged 500 franc turns almost everyone involved in it, but the center of the story itself's a local gas man who becomes a criminal. It's a cold vision of greed and materialism, being showed by Bresson's direction and the acting of every actors, also the use of almost no music & soundtrack in it that creates a more realistic portrayal, but some may find it tedious (And how controversial the ending is). It has no "classic" feeling like when i was watching Pickpocket (1959) (Maybe because it's just 26 years old), but it'll be, maybe 10 or 20 years from now...
June 10, 2005
Summer: Every time I watch a Rohmer, I fall in love.
Lancelot & L'Argent: Bresson... Totally impressive.
Wild Strawberries: I enjoyed it, but don't really understand all the fuss about its greatness. Well it is great, but to me other Bergman works were better (e.g. Persona).
May 29, 2005
i wrote a long review of [i]Bresson's [/i][b]Pickpocket[/b] but accidentally erased it. oh well...see it. get it off netflix when it becomes available on dvd. my tape copy of it is ludicrous. [i]more later[/i]...

[b]L'Argent[/b]. magnifique. the only other post-Pickpocket Bresson film i've seen was [b]Lancelot of the Lake[/b] which L'Argent is easily on par with. both films are immaculate. if you're into Bresson that is. see [b]Diary of a Country Priest[/b] and if you like that, go from there. [i]more later...[/i]

[b]Fat Girl[/b]. more french weirdness. no wonder the brits and us hate 'em. i thought it was pretty funny though and could relate on a similar level to the fat and ugly protagonist who has absolutely no romantic delusions nor outgoingness. it's representational and abstract though. i don't think twelve year old girls talk as fluid and brilliantly as they do, regardless of her unbelievably shitty social construction she is forced into war with. the ending scene was very surprising, as was the pacing during this film's entirety.

[b]Control Room. [/b]sad and confusing. i didn't really like that pompous overweight ex-bbc journalist however. the producer for al-jezeer (sp?) was insightful and interesting, partly because he made a comment about wanting to switch over to [i]Fox News[/i] and partly because he is an Iraqi and seemed to be in great pain. a very conflicted person, which to me, was precisely what the film was about: objectivity.

[b]The Clearing[/b]. i don't know. really bad casting choices. Robert Redford is getting to old to be putting out wanna-be morality-sentiment films like this. scratch that. he's in his prime. i mean...mann's not even that good.
September 18, 2004

Pro: The use of silence. The snowball effect.

Con: The second half falls apart. Slow pacing.
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