L'Argent (1983 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Bresson|
|Produced by||Jean-Marc Henchoz|
Daniel Toscan du Plantier
|Written by||Robert Bresson|
|Based on||The Forged Coupon|
by Leo Tolstoy
|Cinematography||Pasqualino De Santis|
|Edited by||Jean-François Naudon|
|Distributed by||MK2 Diffusion|
L'argent (French pronunciation: [laʁ.ʒɑ̃], meaning "Money") is a 1983 French tragedy film written and directed by Robert Bresson. The film is loosely inspired by the first part of Leo Tolstoy's novella The Forged Coupon. It was Bresson's last film and won the Director's Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.
A young man, Norbert, enters his father's study to claim his monthly allowance. His father obliges, but the son presses for more, citing a debt he owes a schoolmate. The father dismisses him and an appeal to his mother fails. He tries to pawn his watch to a friend, who instead gives him a forged 500-franc note.
The boys take the counterfeit to a photo shop and use it to purchase a picture frame. When the store's co-manager finds out, he scolds his partner for her gullibility. She chides him in return for having accepted two forged notes the previous week. He then vows to pass off all three forged notes at the next opportunity. He uses them to pay Yvon for delivering heating oil.
|Christian Patey||Yvon Targe|
|Sylvie Van Den Elsen||The Little Old Lady|
|Michel Brigue||Father of the Little Old Lady|
|Béatrice Tabourin||The Female Photographer|
|Didier Baussy||The Male Photographer|
|Marc Ernest Fourneau||Norbert|
|André Cler||Norbert's Father|
|Claude Cler||Norbert's Mother|
Yvon tries to pay his restaurant tab with the forged notes, but the waiter recognizes them as counterfeit. Yvon is arrested and at his trial the photo shop people lie. Yvon avoids jail time, but he loses his job. One of the owners of the photo shop recognizes Norbert on the street with a group of his school friends, and she approaches the school authorities and accuses him to them. When the Chaplain quizzes some of the students about the counterfeit bills, Norbert leaves the classroom. At home, his mother advises him to deny everything, and she goes to the photo shop with a bribe for the owners to let the matter rest.
Lucien, the photo shop assistant who committed perjury for his employers at the trial by refusing to recognize Yvon, is scamming them by marking up prices while they are out of the shop and pocketing the difference. He is discovered and fired, but has made copies of the shop's keys. He and two friends rob the shop's safe and begin an ATM card skimming operation.
In need of money, Yvon acts for a friend as the driver of a getaway car for bank robbers. The police foil the robbery and arrest Yvon, who is tried and sentenced to prison for three years. While in prison, Yvon learns of his daughter's death and his wife's decision to start a new life without him. He fails in an attempt to commit suicide.
Lucien and his accomplices are eventually caught and arrested, and Lucien is sent to the same prison as Yvon. Lucien offers to include Yvon in a prison break attempt but Yvon refuses. Yvon blames Lucien for his troubles and wants revenge.
Lucien proceeds with his escape plan but Yvon and his cellmate hear commotion in the hallway that indicates that Lucien has been caught, and Yvon's cellmate speculates that Lucien will probably be transferred to a much more severe maximum-security prison.
Released from prison, Yvon promptly murders and robs a pair of hotel keepers. He is taken in by a kind woman over the objection of her father. Some time passes, and one night Yvon kills them along with others in their house with an axe. He goes to a restaurant, confesses to a police officer, and is arrested.
Bresson first began work on the film's script in 1977. It is based on Leo Tolstoy's The Forged Coupon. Bresson later said that it was the film "with which I am most satisfied—or at least it is the one where I found the most surprises when it was complete—things I had not expected."
The film was released in France on 18 May 1983 through MK2 Diffusion.
Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times, "that Robert Bresson [...] is still one of the most rigorous and talented film makers of the world is evident with the appearance of his beautiful, astringent new film, L'Argent. [...The film] would stand up to Marxist analysis, yet it's anything but Marxist in outlook. It's far too poetic – too interested in the mysteries of the spirit."
Tom Milne found L′Argent to be "unmistakably a masterpiece", noting "the extraordinary apotheosis of the final sequence," and the "breathless wonderment in the last shot of onlookers frozen as they gaze into the empty room from which all evidence of crime has gone."
Bresson received the Director's Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, tied with Andrei Tarkovsky for Nostalghia. L'Argent was nominated for Best Sound at the César Awards 1984. It won the 1984 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director.
- Martin, Adrian (11 July 2017). "L'argent: The Weight of the World". www.criterion.com. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
Rather, the ominous “agent” at work here is money: the workings of an entire capitalist system boiled down to the movement of a forged note and the unstoppable catastrophe that it triggers. As money travels, it dehumanizes everyone it touches, no matter their class status or religious or ideological beliefs. What, in other hands, could be played as the premise for a screwball comedy (the phony dollar bill that caused such riotous havoc in a small-town community!) is treated by Bresson as the darkest tragedy.
- Smith, Ian (5 August 2017). "Desperate Times: Kaurismäki and Bresson". www.criterion.com. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
Death is the pitiful outcome of Robert Bresson’s Money (L’argent), his stark and devastating final film. Loosely adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s 1904 novella ‘The Forged Coupon’, it suggests that we all live on the cusp of chaos. On any given day, individual events that may normally have no impact on our lives, when played out in a particular order, have the power to destroy the very fabric our rational world is comprised of, resulting in behaviour that we would otherwise abhor. That the style Bresson adopts is so simple only emphasises the tragedy for all concerned.
- Cunneen, Joseph (2003). Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film. Retrieved 26 January 2019 – via Google Books.
- Perez, Rodrigo (17 April 2017). "Criterion Adds New Films By Andrei Tarkovsky, Robert Bresson & Albert Brooks For July Slate". theplaylist.net. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
A pitch-dark tragedy, “L’Argent” essentially follows the life of a counterfeit bill that ends up in the hands of an unsuspecting and innocent man.
- John Wakeman, World Film Directors, Volume 1. The H. W. Wilson Company, 1987. ISBN 0-8242-0757-2, 62.
- "L'Argent". AlloCiné (in French). Tiger Global. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- Vincent Canby, "Film Festival; 'L'Argent,' 13th feature by Bresson," The New York Times, September 24, 1983.
- Wakeman, World Film Directors, 62.
- "Festival de Cannes: Awards 1983". festival-cannes.com. Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- "L'Argent – Prix et nominations". AlloCiné (in French). Tiger Global. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- "Past Awards". nationalsocietyoffilmcritics.com. National Society of Film Critics. Archived from the original on 8 August 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- Ciment, Michel. "I Seek Not Description But Vision: Robert Bresson on L’Argent." In Quandt, Robert Bresson, 2012.
- Hasumi, Shigehiko. "Led by the Scarlet Pleats: Bresson’s L’Argent." In Quandt, Robert Bresson, 2012.
- Jones, Kent. L’Argent. BFI Film Classics, 1999. ISBN 978-0-85170-733-4.
- ———. "A Stranger’s Posture: Notes on Bresson’s Late Films." In Quandt, Robert Bresson, 2012.
- Moravia, Alberto. "L’Argent." In Quandt, Robert Bresson, 2012.
- Quandt, James, ed. Robert Bresson (Revised). Indiana UP (Cinematheque Ontario Monographs), 2012. ISBN 978-0-9682969-5-0.