Monday 18 July 2005

L'Argent (1983) - ickleReview (cinema)

French film directed by Robert Bresson based on the Leo Tolstoy short story "Feux billet". Two schoolboys use a forged bank note at a photography shop, who, dismayed at being fooled, pass it and others on to a truck driver, who is caught trying to use the fake notes (unbeknown to him) at a cafe. He is charged by the police and loses his job. In a desperate attempt to support his family, he aids a bank robbery and goes to prison. His wife leaves him and things continue to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the clerk who committed perjury to cloak the guilt of the photography shop slips into petty credit card crime and ends up in the same prison as the truck driver.

Bresson is a master storyteller, although he doesn't use the same syntax as most other cinematographers. His shots are carefully planned, the camera pans coming to rest at an exact point - the boot of a car, or a table at a cafe, having tracked a woman walking along the pavement. Everything is interconnected, so when you cheat one person with fake money, you cheat many; every action has a consequence. There is barely any dialogue. It's almost like watching a cartoon strip or an animated storyboard.

Bresson's cold morality is more refreshing than chilling. His actors are bland, almost robotic in their uncomfortable, rehearsed movements; and yet there's something oddly vital about them, as if Bresson strips them down to the bare bones of humanity.

Nugget: an astonishing, accomplished, and finely crafted film, which expects a lot from its audience, who must be attentive and prepared to join up some of the dots themselves. Rarely is anything telegraphed and illuminated by searchlights, as the same material might have been treated by one of the big Hollywood studios. A cinematic voice I haven't heard before; but shall seek out again.

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