Robert Bresson's final masterpiece, L'Argent is a stunning protest against greed and corruption. A boy's parents refuse to lend him money, so a friend gives him a counterfeit 500-franc bill. This one act sets into motion a... more » chain of events that will lead to murder. The bill passes from hand to hand, and with each exchange comes another betrayal. To protect themselves, shopkeepers pass the bill on to an unsuspecting delivery man, Yvon, who is arrested and sent to prison. Rejecting the world that ruined him, Yvon turns to crime and destruction. Inspired by a Tolstoy story, one of cinema?s great masters creates a powerful tale of innocence corrupted.« less
R. Williams | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's amazing so few people know of Bresson's films; he's one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. This film, his last, is brutally efficient in laying out his often bleak view of the world. Based on a Tolstoy story 'Le Faux Billet', it's an exercise in zero sum eliminative logic. The fact that the culprit (a conterfeit bill) is set in motion by playfully malicious youths and then the path is cleared by the greed and malice of their hypocritical parents is a beautiful setup for this dark meditation on the subjugation of human beings to their ruthless god. The abstract mechnanized backdrop for the titles sequence is a money machine. As is so often the case, behind the deadpan performances of his nonactors (many of whom are superb in this movie), Bresson fetishizes on his subject unto hypnosis; in this film, notice how many times doors, small and large, are slamming, beginning with the automated one closing the first transaction, to the last image of a row of people gawking at the door. This film retains its searing impact through many viewings."
Exemplary Film Maker
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 11/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"L'Argent is a subtle film about class warfare. The story is deceptively simple -- it follows the journey of a counterfeit note as it changes hands-- but the examination of social attitudes and hypocrisies is quite thorough.
The forgers are two rich kids, they pass the note on to two middle class shopkeepers, and the shopkeepers pass it on to a working class truck driver. The corruption begins at the top of the economic food chain but the rich never pay for their crimes and so they commit them without even a second thought. The middle class is not as well off and so they are even more moneygrubbing than the untouchable and insulated wealthy and knowingly pass the counterfeit note on to an unsuspecting working class truck driver and then later lie about it in court. Its the working classes that pay for everyones crimes. Bresson is brilliant at keeping things simple. Many of his films are based on short literary works and so his films have an economy to them that is almost breathtaking. In the case of L'Argent Bresson takes a Tolstoy story and pares it down to the basics-- for Bresson the story is about the class struggle and how this system with its built-in hypocrisies and injustices dehumanizes and corrupts us all. The rich are seen to be callous and arrogant because untouchable, the middle class are seen to be petty and selfish, and the working class is seen to be easily victimized--merely fodder for those who happen to be higher on the economic bracket. Bresson does not fool around with character development or atmosphere, he stays focused on the essentails and thus the distilled quality of his films. In his early films he focused on alienated psychologies(Pickpocket, Diary of A Country Priest) but in his later films (Lancelot of the Lake, L'Argent) he focuses on society, and individuals are seen merely to represent types. The early films are more satisfying and richer and also more life affirming whereas the later ones leave you cold. What is consistent in all of his films is the utter perfectionism he displays with each shot. Bresson made such a small number of films because he took on average three years to make each one. Still he is not a film maker who will ever reach a large audience because his vision is so bleak. He does remain a favorite of true cinema fans and film makers; Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle are among his fans. Some people try and find affirmative messages in his films but only Pickpocket ends on a hopeful note. What sets his films apart is the sense that Bresson is devoted to finding the perfect visual style to convey his content. No other film maker does that better than Bresson."
Tolstoy meets Bresson, and loses
lexo-2 | 07/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was, as it turned out, Robert Bresson's final film - he died last year, having spent the better part of the century making only fourteen feature films, most of which are truly remarkable. Fairly loosely adapted from a Tolstoy story, it starts off with a middle-class kid passing a forged banknote and ends in axe-murder. Bresson displays commendable artistic nous in avoiding the preachier, more moralistic bits of the original story (it's not one of Tolstoy's better tales) and concentrates instead on the man-made but nevertheless impersonal forces that conspire to drag the oilman Yvon from decent family man to murderer. (The murder itself is one of the most stunning, and yet most discreet sequences in the history of film.) Bresson's usual crawling pace is sped up here, as there are so many stories and sub-plots to get through. Kent Jones, in his excellent study of the film, has observed that while Bresson has a wonderfully acute sense of what young people are like, he falls down a bit when he tries to depict the Paris underworld; but it doesn't matter, as this is a film with its eyes on bigger matters than documentary realism. Bresson was at least 80 when he made L'Argent, and his uncanny sense of rhythm and timing were not at all dulled; the fairly gentle pace of the opening scenes accelerates into hyperspace before the end. L'Argent is about as far from the conventional crime picture is you'll ever get; the opening shot, of the metal screen of an ATM machine sliding shut, establishes the sense of inexorability. There are no Good But Troubled Cops, no Criminal Masterminds. Everybody in the film is humanly inexplicable, inexplicably human. When Yvon, at the film's visceral climax, asks the question "Where's the money?", it was Bresson himself who, in an interview, gave the answer: Everywhere. If only most directors' final films were as good as this."
A very subliminal, enigmatic experience.
Grigory's Girl | 11/04/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was the first Bresson film I saw and was by far the best. The languid and minimilistic style conveyed by Bresson takes some time getting used to, but its understating of the central theme is a powerful psychological device. Thematically, Bresson conveys to the audience the humiliation and inexorable decline of a working class man who was unfortunate to possess fake French Franc notes as a result of a petty and irresponsible joke initiated by middle/upper class schoolboys. The most patent disturbing factor of this film is how an ordinary, everyday working man, happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; this results in the young man going to jail & losing his family (including the heart breaking death of his baby whom he never saw). The effects are cataclysmic and tragic as the final scenes ensue. This is an excellent film which will sear the mind, heart and soul and will live and haunt you for the rest of your life. A must see."
Bresson's greatest work...
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 05/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Bresson's greatest, and last, work. It is a work from a true cinematic auteur. No one made films like Bresson did, and I don't think anyone ever will. This film is based on a short story by Tolstoy entitled The Forged Coupon (aka The Forged Note), except Tolstoy's story is much different that Bresson's take here. It is about how a forged note of 500 francs passes from one hand to another, ruining the life of a fuel oil delivery man. Bresson made this film when he was 82, but you couldn't tell that it was made by a man that old. Quite often, critics assume that filmmakers (and artists in general) have nothing to say as they get older. On the contrary. They have even more to say. A real artist's vision deepens as they grow older. Kurosawa made Ran at 75, and Eastwood made Million Dollar Baby at 74. Those are their best films. Bresson is rather feisty and combative (which is a good thing) in the interviews presented here. He doesn't mince words, and he doesn't seem interested in doing the usual inane questions that featurettes on DVD's usually have from bubble headed reporters (even though these were shot for French TV, not Entertainment Tonight). He has something to say. This is my favorite film of his (even though Lancelot of the Lake and Au Hasard Balthazar are close behind). Sadly, he never made another one after this, but the 13 he did make are all brilliant. Not one bad one. Great film, great man...