I carry a particular impression with me about Robert Bresson’s L’Argent (1983). It strikes me as a stately and austere museum whose only exhibit is devoted to the artifacts of a tragic and deadly crime. As I wander its minimalist halls, I am met with object lessons and vivid displays of how easily we are led into degradation, especially by money. It contains contemplative spaces too, though, where we can regard grace and our relative abilities to accept it. It is a cinematic experience like no other.
When I walked out of the theater after seeing L’Argent for the first time, I knew I had just seen a masterpiece. I had always connected with Bresson’s work, but this was something different. This was a master saving his most powerful statement for the end. It was his final film and I think of it as the most refined and potent summation of everything that came before it. I know Bresson isn’t for everyone. His formalism, the studied non-performance of his models, the elliptical nature of his narrative style – all of this can combine to keep a viewer at arm’s length if they are expecting a more traditional cinematic experience. I encourage everyone to overcome these obstacles, if indeed that is what they are, and use Bresson’s swansong as a way to recalibrate what they think movies are for and how they work on us. It’s a powerful work and a rare opportunity.
What you’ll find in this episode: crime and punishment, redemption and revenge, counterfeiters, philosophers, money, murder, and minimalism.
Check out L’Argent on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Pickpocket.
A former Secret Service agent explains how to detect counterfeit money.
Our visit with our dear friend Daisuke Beppu on his YouTube channel.