(1983)4.5Wheeler Winston DixonRobert Bresson's last film, L'Argent is essentially about the ways in which money corrupts the human spirit, and begins with a shot of an ATM machine dispensing cash, an immediate indication that Bresson, though by then an old master, was still entirely in touch with modern civilization and its many mechanisms. Very loosely based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, the film's unrelenting narrative follows the path of a forged 500-franc note, from two schoolboys through a series of fraudulent transactions until, at length, it winds up in the hands of Yvon Targe (Christian Patey), a young worker who spends it at a café, not knowing that it is a forged note. Arrested for passing counterfeit money, Yvon loses his job, turns to crime, and gets arrested again. This time, Yvon goes to prison, and while he is in jail, his daughter dies. Released, Yvon takes to drifting aimlessly through the city, until he finds, at last, an elderly woman who seems to take pity on the lost soul and takes him in, with terrifying consequences. As with all of Bresson's films, L'Argent is superbly photographed, edited with razor-sharp precision, and enacted by a group of nonprofessionals who have been instructed to drain their movements of all emotion. It is the money that Bresson is interested in here, and the lengths to which people will go to obtain it. Bresson's Catholicism is readily apparent in the film, which is nevertheless perhaps the most fatalistic of Bresson's late works, with the implicit message that some harm simply can't be undone, or atoned for. In the film he made several years before L'Argent, Le Diable Probablement (1977), Bresson's fatalism was even more pronounced; authorities feared that the film essentially endorsed teenage suicide, and various attempts were made to suppress the film. L'Argent presents a world that is only superficially less grim, in which even kindness is often repaid with a blow to the head. Compelling, brilliant, and absolutely memorable, L'Argent is one of the key works in Bresson's canon, and absolutely essential viewing for anyone even remotely interested in the history of the cinema.
The last film by veteran writer/director Robert Bresson, the French crime drama L'Argent (Money) was based on a short story by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. Looking for some quick cash, young man Norbert (Marc Ernest Fourneau) gets a phony 500 franc note from his friend Matrial (Bruno Lapeyre). After he spends it at a photography shop, the unscrupulous shop owner (Didier Baussy) decides to pass it on to someone else. The unfortunate victim is honest delivery man Yvon Targe (Christian Patey), who doesn't realize the bill is a fake. When he tries to buy some food with it, he is arrested. He tries to sue the photographer, but shop assistant Lucien (Vincent Risterucci) has been bribed to stay quiet about the transaction. The scandal causes Yvon to lose his job. In order to support his family, he tries driving a getaway car for some criminals. Unfortunately, their heist doesn't go so well, and he is sent to prison for three years. While incarcerated, his child dies of diphtheria and his wife (Caroline Lang) leaves him. Crazed, Yvon turns to theft, violent crime, and eventually cold-blooded murder. L'Argent earned (Bresson) the Director's Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.