Number of discs: 1
"Robert Bresson's 1983 film L'Argent was his final feature film, and it represents one of the most sobering and uncompromising takes on 'modern society' ever to have reached the cinema screen. The film won the Best Director prize for Bresson at the 1983 Cannes film festival. The film's narrative is actually based on a Tolstoy novel, The Forged Coupon, written in 1911. The story follows innocent delivery man Yvon (Christian Patey) who becomes ensnared in a tragic and downward spiral of events, whose origins are triggered by a chance event, the passing on (unbeknown to him) by Yvon of a forged banknote, and its subsequent discovery by the police.
In L'Argent, Bresson uses his by now trademark style of minimalist cinema (static camera shots, long takes held on the camera's subject, sparse dialogue, no music, camera close-ups on legs, midriffs, closed doors, feet on accelerators, etc) to tell a devastating tale of guilt, deception, hypocrisy, denial and, at least partial, redemption. As became Bresson's trademark, he again employs a cast of first-time actors to great effect, and particular praise should go to Christian Patey (playing Yvon) and Vincent Risterucci playing Lucien, the photoshop worker whose deception is the cause of the problems that eventually beset Yvon. My other observation on the male cast Bresson has assembled is the remarkable physical similarity between them - it is almost as if Bresson is depicting a modern human race of androids, all motivated by common ambition (of which the key one here is money).
The first two-thirds of the film use the typical Bressonian approach (rather like his earlier masterpiece Pickpocket) of devising an intricate plot, whereby the principal object of the narrative (here, the forged banknote) is passed between numerous characters, some crucial to the storyline, others not. It is from this sequence of events that Bresson then homes in on the key characters, Yvon and Lucien, around which the core of the film is based. The final third of the film, charting the period after Yvon has been released from prison, began, for me, to rather meander, until Bresson brings all the narrative strands and themes together for the film's devastating finale.
I think this film can be regarded as something of a retelling of Pickpocket, updated for an even more cynical modern world, and, whilst it is not, for me, on a par with the earlier film, it still provides a fitting finale to the career of one of the most original auteurs to have ever worked in cinema.
The DVD also contains two very interesting interviews with Bresson (albeit with some overlap between the two). He talks mainly about his love of spontaneity in filmmaking, after having had a brief go at Jean Renoir(!), and before praising a James Bond film! (Amazon review)