Saturday, June 9, 2007

L'Argent (1983)

Directed by Robert Bresson. Starring Christian Patey and Sylvie van den Elsen.

Bresson was famous as perhaps one of the most artistically rigorous of the master filmmakers, and I wasn't sure which of his films to choose for this list (I also seriously considered were MOUCHETTE and AU HASARD BALTHASAR). In the end, I found myself drawn back to his final film, an adaptation of a Tolstoy story, about the tragic path taken by a forged bill, and those whose lives it touches. What makes the film effective is its message- dishonesty leads to dishonesty, crime leads to crime- made particularly poignant in the tale of a truck driver who is arrested for using the forged bill (which someone else gave him, though no one will 'fess up), and then loses his job and his wife, is forced by a lack of money to assist in a messy bank robbery, is thrown into jail, and then when released is completely without resources. In the wrong hands, it could have been a wrongheaded bleeding-heart screed, but Bresson's spare style makes the story a universal parable about how fate can pull the rug from under our secure lives when we least expect it.

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