For Reel

L’Argent (1983)
February 23, 2012, 2:01 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Bresson

Loosely adapted from the first part of the Leo Tolstoy novella The Forged Coupon, L’Argent was the final film of Robert Bresson and clearly his most nihilistic. It is not coincidental that the second part of Tolstoy’s source material had been left out, in which the wrong-doers are redeemed and goodness proves just as infectious as evil. This is Bresson’s most stubborn, inflexible work, angry and possessing implications far more horrifying than the reasoned resistance of The Devil, Probably. In the film, a young gas man acquires forged franc notes and is arrested when, oblivious that they are inauthentic, he attempts to use them at a restaurant. As the picture continues, Yvon works as the get-away driver for a robbery, is sentenced to prison, and goes on a murderous rampage. Author Tony Pipolo argues that, while Yvon might be the closest character that L’Argent has to a protagonist, he is far removed from the typical Bresson character because he, “does not engage in a struggle of conscience.” He is, for this reason, perhaps the most distancing of Bresson’s leads – the picture is not so much a character study as it is a film about transference, as Yvon’s descent to needless, greed-fueled violence would suggest. The world is a harsh, unjust one, and rather than serving as the martyr that Balthazar had, Yvon is ensnared within his own predatory course. As far as it would seem that Bresson had come in his career, it is fascinating to see that his final film ends nearly identical to his first, in which Yvon, as Thérèse had in Les Anges du Péché, surrenders himself to authorities.

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