L’Argent (1983)

“Wait. Everyone will be happy soon. I won’t wait around for that. Believe me, it will bore us stupid. I want happiness now, on my terms.”

‘L’Argent’, the last film directed by Robert Bresson in 1983, is as elegant and deceptively simple as his 1960s movies. Thematically its closest relation is ‘Pickpocket’: in ‘L’Argent’ we follow a forged banknote as it changes hands and leads to a cycle of increasingly violent crimes. Bresson directs with a light touch, the events are episodic and depicted without hyperbole and without telling us how to feel. The acting is distanced and unemotional but made all the more powerful for that. You constantly get the feeling you’re being kept away from events, for example during a bank robbery, Bresson refuses to show salacious or thrilling details of the moment, instead focussing on the getaway car. Or when the final, brutal murder occurs, we are only allowed to see snippets before we follow the killer, Yvon, as he confesses to the police. Even then, the camera retreats before he is arrested. Watching a Bresson movie is a strange experience. By rights, the distancing should be alienating, but instead it draws you in. There is something compelling in the desire to see more and the reactionary restraint that Bresson demonstrates in what he displays. It paradoxically makes his films simpler and more complex: simple on a narrative level, but more complex in the emotions they are able to tap into. This is the other extreme to Argento (the director of the last movie I saw), but the effect is no less absorbing and, if anything, more shocking.

Would I recommend it? Yes – again all of Bresson’s movies are worth watching. I’d also recommend watching it in a contrasting double bill with ‘Profondo Rosso’ for a laugh.

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