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L'argent (1983)

 |  Crime, Drama  |  18 May 1983 (France)
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A forged 500-franc note is cynically passed from person to person and shop to shop, until it falls into the hands of a genuine innocent who doesn't see it for what it is - which will have ... See full summary »



, (short story "Faux billet") (as Tolstoï)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christian Patey ...
Vincent Risterucci ...
Caroline Lang ...
Sylvie Van den Elsen ...
Grey Haired Woman
Michel Briguet ...
Grey Haired Woman's Father
Béatrice Tabourin ...
Didier Baussy ...
Marc Ernest Fourneau ...
Bruno Lapeyre ...
François-Marie Banier
Alain Aptekman
Jeanne Aptekman ...
Dominique Mullier
Jacques Behr
Gilles Durieux


A forged 500-franc note is cynically passed from person to person and shop to shop, until it falls into the hands of a genuine innocent who doesn't see it for what it is - which will have devastating consequences on his life, causing him to turn to crime and murder... Written by Michael Brooke <>

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Crime | Drama


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Release Date:

18 May 1983 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Money  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Last film directed by Robert Bresson. See more »


Yvon Targe: 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.
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Referenced in Paintbrush (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

the final "striving" of one of France's most uncompromising filmmakers
18 April 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

On the DVD for the film L'Argent, it's writer/director Robert Bresson says that he dislikes his films being called "works", because he sees each films as being a sort of "striving" or attempt towards something more and more perfect with cinematography and so on, and most specifically to strive towards truth with what's up on the screen. It's an interesting position to see from the film's own creator, because the truth as presented in L'Argent is that really of repression. It's not just the characters, or particularly the actors portraying them, or the deliberate flow of shots in a scene of violence or physical altercation or something that should be run of the mill in a crime movie. It's the society itself, and even in the subtler ways the mechanics of society, of money as well, drive along people, especially when they do wrong. Like other Bresson pictures, L'Argent is interested in man's conscience and what it is to go over the line of what makes one guilty or not based on the cruel fates of such a society, only this time even more restrained and- as the word gets thrown around so often- detached.

But I would be a little hesitant to label it outright as detached. Bresson's definitely no Scorsese, let's make that clear, and one's not going to get a camera movement that jolts you in your seat. On the other hand there's a level of low-key engrossment in the material. It's not very easy to get through, to be certain, as Bresson is all about both subtleties and hitting you over the head with the message, although not seemingly so much with the latter. His story comes from a Tolstoy short, and it seems fitting for a man who's masterpiece, A Man Escaped, also dealt with the feelings of dread against a clockwork structure where any and all feeling comes in smaller doses. The protagonist, Yvon, gets handed a twist of fate with some counterfeit money, and gets put to jail after taking a deal on a job that leads to a car crash (perhaps the one and only time, ironically of course, that Bresson probably tried an action scene like this). After a stint in prison, where coming face to face with the man originally responsible for putting him in there via the counterfeit money only brings a sense of loss in lacking revenge, he goes through a murder spree.

But a murder spree, of course, as Bresson would only do, where omitted details are all apart of the mis-en-scene and in adding an emphasis on the aftermath more-so than the actual grisly details of what goes on in the moment. There's even a moment towards the end of something out of Sling Blade, only here not so much out of the simplicity of the mind from knowing right or wrong but from the simplicity of being numbed by the experience: the lack of a conscience. Yvon is the kind of criminal that never gets shown in movies, and rightfully so. He doesn't fit into a comfortable mold, and it will be a little sluggish for some viewers, even in an 81 minute running time, to see the usual Bresson tactics going on; likely many, many takes to wear down the already non-professional actors, and this time stuck in a near-rigid control of Bresson's in an emphasis of camera over performance. As one critic pointed out, it's more like 15th century icons than usual 'actors'. And, truth be told, it's not quite as fascinating as A Man Escaped or Pickpocket because of Bresson making it tougher to get into the detachment of the main character (the lack of narration may be attributable to this, or the simple fact that perhaps Tolstoy is a hard literary nut to crack).

But as his final film, it's a good "attempt" that does progress ideas about the truth behind criminal acts, and the society that tries, convicts and houses them (there's an great little moment showing how the prisoners have to pick up their suitcases before going into the prison), and how 'normal' citizens also have a kind of repression that comes out in spurts, like with the old married couple who take in Yvon late in the film (the shot of the slap is significant, tying into Bresson's visual scheme of such acts being too easy to show on film). It's an intellectual stimulator, at the least, even as it does resist anything extremely favorable as an emotional effort. It's slightly cold and assuredly dense, but worthwhile for a certain kind of movie-goer.

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