The last film by Robert Bresson, and the only color film of his to make the list, L’Argent is much like the other Bresson films that I’ve seen, and indeed Bresson seems to be, if anything, a man of a consistent style. Where his black-and-white films appear to be a cold, lifeless smattering of gray shades – the bare minimum in terms of cinematography – L’Argent takes the same idea and puts it to color, and we thus get a film of very simplistic and hyper-realistic images; a Bresson film if there ever was one. His storytelling techniques have not changed in the 30-40-some years he made movies, and neither did his approach to each film he meticulously prepared. Even if I’m not the biggest fan of how his films turn out, I have to admit; I appreciate the hell out of Robert Bresson.
The story follows a forged 500 franc note as it ends up in the hands of Yvon, a city worker, who is caught with it at a restaurant and only barely gets off with leniency, but is unable to pay the damages. One of his friends sets him up on a job as the getaway driver for a robbery, and he is caught and sentenced to jail. From there, his life gets worse and worse, and we also follow up with the other people involved in the handling of the counterfeit bill before it got into Yvon’s hands and how they deal with their own repercussions. For what it’s worth, I generally liked the film, especially the turns in the story that were very appropriate, and not idealistic or what the audience would have wanted (though there were a couple of directions that I wasn’t sure why the film had decided to go those routes). There was one major thing about the film, though, that bugged me to no end through the whole running time, and it had to do with the acting. It was really blocky, really square; people would hit their marks, recite their lines, and then leave, and it was really noticeable. It was probably halfway through the film that an idea dawned on me, that the film could have been doing that to intentionally create a coldness to the characters, a disconnect between them and genuine feelings or emotions. Or it could have just been a really odd and poor choice of direction, but I’d like to think Bresson had more experience than that. Also, I expected a little more from the prison scenes, given this is the same director that gave us A Man Escaped, but perhaps the times had merely changed, in both prisons and in moviemaking. Still, it was a little bit of a letdown.
As I mentioned, there were a couple of choices the plot makes in which direction to take its characters in, that I wasn’t really sure why it did, and this has largely to do with the last act of the film – the last 20-30 minutes or so, so I won’t talk too much about it since I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone willing to give this a try. Regardless of how the plot dealt with itself, I still felt there was too much to dislike about this one, and not enough to like about it. Plus, everything I could list as a likable attribute of the film is either a result of something I disliked about it (oddly enough), or a standard in any Bresson film to be found. I really wasn’t sure why I had to see this particular one before I died, but neither am I that worse off for it, so I’ll stick right in the middle. If you’re a fan of Bresson and want to check out his color work, this will likely be a great place to start. If you’re not, this will likely not change your mind.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10