Saturday, August 16, 2014

700. L'Argent/Money (1983)

Running Time: 83 minutes
Directed By: Robert Bresson
Written By: Robert Bresson, from the short story Faux billet by Leo Tolstoy
Main Cast: Christian Patey, Vincent Risterucci, Caroline Lang, Sylvie Van den Elsen, Michel Briguet
Click here to view the trailer


So I watched this on Thursday morning and am FINALLY getting here to write the review. I ended up spending the rest of Thursday hanging out with my wife, watching Oz and such and then came down with a pretty nasty migraine on Friday, so was in no shape for staring at laptop screens and trying to mesh together sentences. This is definitely the longest I've ever waited in between viewing and reviewing, so bear with me if I'm sketchy with my thoughts.

The film begins with a student entering his father's study to collect his weekly allowance. He tries to get a few more dollars out of him that what he normally is given, but is promptly shot down. When he goes to bitch about the insufficient funds to his school chum, the chum slips him forged note and tells him the difference is negligible. He passes the forged note in a photo shop when purchasing a frame and we're done with them. Sticking with the photo shop crew, however, the one who accepted the note is reprimanded for taking it, but bounces back by reminding the owner that he accepted two only the week prior. The owner decides to take matters into his own hands and just pass the notes along to some other unsuspecting rube. The rube comes in the form of a plumber, Yvon (Patey) who does some work at the photo shop and is paid with the three forged notes that the shop has accepted in the past week. The plumber is none the wiser and goes along his merry way, stopping by a restaurant to grab some lunch. When he tries to pass the notes along, however, the restaurant owner spots them as forges and declines them, phoning the police in the process. Yvon is eventually released by the authorities, but is fired from his job. Now, needing money, Yvon goes to a friend for help. The friend can't give Yvon any dough, but tells him of plans to rob a bank and offers him a spot as the getaway driver with a dividend to be paid to Yvon if they're successful - he accepts. Basically it turns into a whole snowball effect from this point on and I've probably said too much already.


For those of you who stuck with me past the break, let's keep going. I realize you already know the rest of the plot if you've decided to read past "SPOILER ALERT", but I want to make a point, so bear with me. So the bank robbery turns out to be unsuccessful, Yvon is caught by police and put in prison for his crimes. While in prison, his wife writes him and tells him that she's taking their child and moving on with her life and that she'll be Splitsville by the time he's released. He basically stumbles into a depression (and for good reason) until he's released. Upon his release he stalks an elderly woman, whom he notices outside the bank, stuffing many large bills into her handbag, follows her home and before he can knock her off, is taken by her kindness. She offers him something to eat and a place to stay and for a while, the two get along. It all ends up, however, with him axing her and her entire family while they sleep, going back into town (the woman lived out in the boonies), finding a police officer, confessing and being re-arrested. So my point is, I was with this movie right up until the point that he killed the woman and her family. The film was telling a pretty basic concept: look at what this one forged note did to this poor, unsuspecting man's life. He loses his job, loses his family, loses his freedom, loses everything and all because this spoiled, punk kid didn't have a few more dollars in his pocket. It all made sense and despite it's outrageous lack of dialogue, wasn't a bad little film. Then we go to the murder angle and it kind of all falls apart. Yvon having anything to do with the elderly woman, let along murdering her, is something he has control of, unlike the jailing and the loss of his family which were completely out of his control. I mean, did the guy just go so completely mad from being locked up for this amount of time that he felt the need to kill? Or am I just totally missing one of Bresson's little hidden messages, symbols or meanings? Probably the latter. Either way, it was kind of a goofy second half and it really took me out of the movie.

And what about the spectacular problem Bresson has with dialogue interaction between his characters? The characters in this film were so quiet that they barely had any personality and could barely be called characters - I'd rather call them place holders for the plot to unfold. In earlier films (the ones I watched last week) Bresson would use narration as a way to get his thoughts across, but in L'Argent, there is no narration and thus, for a lot of the movie, we're left to simply view actions as opposed to listening to interactions. I'm such a dialogue junkie when it comes to movies that I find it really hard to get into his movies with this complete lack of character exchanges. It was one thing when it was narration, because at least that's something and he wrote it really well. But in L'Argent, there's a lot of dead air and I found my mind wondering a few times. The plot was decent enough, however, that I found it relatively easy to bring my concentration back to the picture and all in all it wasn't a bad day at the movies. Had there been a lot more dialogue and a better explanation as to why Yvon took the path he did, post-jail, then this could've been a big time contender for the next TOP 20. As it is call it an unlikely contender for the Ten Worth Mentioning.

RATING: 6.5/10  I probably COULD go '7' if I was feeling a bit more generous, but '6.5' seems more proper. One Bresson picture left in THE BOOK, which I hope to tackle tomorrow night - Balthazar.


August 16. 2014  10:47pm


  1. OK, sorry Andrew, I did miss making a comment on this..
    I'm afraid I just found it of little interest.. more less than subtle "doing wrong things is wrong, and just creates more wrong"
    Well, true enough.. and how many stunning, gripping Noirs have been made with exactly the same 'snowball effect' of one (seemingly) minor wrong doing act leading to tragedy, despair etc.
    This passed along much more easily than any other Bresson film (and I have seen others by him, not in The Book), but sadly I have to admit I just don't take to the guy.

    1. Yeah, ultimately Bresson just wasn't my cup of tea either, though, as you said, this one went down a lot easier.


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