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L'Argent (1983)

L'argent (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama | 18 May 1983 (France)
A forged 500-franc note is passed from person to person until carelessness leads to tragedy.


Robert Bresson


Robert Bresson, Leo Tolstoy (short story "Faux billet") (as Tolstoï)

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2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christian Patey ... Yvon Targe
Vincent Risterucci Vincent Risterucci ... Lucien
Caroline Lang Caroline Lang ... Elise
Sylvie Van den Elsen Sylvie Van den Elsen ... Grey Haired Woman
Michel Briguet Michel Briguet ... Grey Haired Woman's Father
Béatrice Tabourin Béatrice Tabourin ... La photographe
Didier Baussy Didier Baussy ... Le photographe
Marc Ernest Fourneau Marc Ernest Fourneau ... Norbert
Bruno Lapeyre Bruno Lapeyre ... Martial
François-Marie Banier François-Marie Banier
Alain Aptekman Alain Aptekman
Jeanne Aptekman Jeanne Aptekman ... Yvette
Dominique Mullier Dominique Mullier
Jacques Behr Jacques Behr
Gilles Durieux 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 <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

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Crime | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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France | Switzerland


French | Latin

Release Date:

18 May 1983 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

L'Argent See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


Yvon Targe: [to the guy who sent him to jail] You have me on your conscience. You have to answer for that now.
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Version of Frozen Land (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

The "idea" of a film
14 January 2008 | by renelsonantoniusSee all my reviews

On a strictly formalist level, Robert Bresson's swan song, "L'Argent" (1983, France;which directly translates to "Money"), can be regarded as Pure Cinema. That is to say, no emotions, no actions, no music, none of such "artificiality" that has customarily been associated with cinema. At best, the film (and for that matter, Bresson's entire filmography) can be described as a Cinema of Ideology.

What is strictly at work here is the "idea" of how money can corrupt and destroy the human spirit. Surely, this can be derived from the Biblical concept of "money being the root of all evil" (Bresson's Christian upbringing being almost always discernible in his films). But this is not to regard this essential commodity per se as the reason for all things evil. Rather, at least in the film's context, it's a particularly forged 500-franc note that set in motion a series of unpleasant and unjust events, with this quiet and unassuming gas station attendant named Yvon Targe at the (abysmal) center.

As suggested from the preceding paragraphs, what concerns Bresson here is not the characters themselves or the milieu they are in (the actuality), as let's say the Italian Neo-Realism would have it, but the idea of how an unscrupulous act can be the cause of another person's undoing. This is humanism in its abstraction. Thus, watching the implications and complications of the counterfeit 500-franc bill upon the lives of the characters--or upon the life of Yvon--is like watching statuesque figures ("15th-century Christian icons", as some would politely have it) being callously manipulated by their blind fate, perennially condemned to be dragged along by the turning of its wheels.

And it is Bresson himself who is the prime mover of this "wheel". In his hands, the "force" of this fate is of such a cold, detached, unforgivably rational quality that one can unfailingly have the feeling of not being able to bear it all. From the initial simple act of the two schoolboys having to knowingly spend the counterfeit money at a photography shop, to the final harrowing act of Yvon having to commit a terrible deed in the name of and as a vengeance against the money (in a figurative sense), one senses Bresson as having the big hand in this cause-and-effect chain of events.

If one gets such a feeling, it's because the filmmaker (already 82 at that time) intended it to be so. As "L'Argent" is a specimen of Bresson's own brand of Pure Cinema, he absolutely wants his exacting vision and conception to be seen and felt in each and every scene, unhampered and uncluttered by the "standard" cinematic manipulations of stylized dialogue, fancy emotions, accompanying soundtrack and contrived actions. In this specific cinematic world, the filmmaker is the cinematic god himself whose fuel for his performers (non-professional at that) is mainly his idea of how cinema should be.

(In reference to one of his films, a reviewer noted that it is Bresson himself who is assuming the different characters in the film. Curiously, the above-noted film elements are what define, not in a derogative way though, Bresson's introductory feature film, "The Ladies of Bois du Bologne".)

This, in effect, gives an entirely purist level to the filmic conception of what it means to be an auteur, formally introduced to movie lexicon by the French New Wave, as pioneered by Jean-Luc Godard. "Purist", in that, whereas the New Wave pioneers can still "play" upon the above-mentioned filmic artificialities, Bresson the auteur is no different from being a sculptor or a painter or even a novelist. It's his own soul that seeps through his work. The product is distinguished by the singularity of its maker's personality.

What makes this singularly cold, clinical method even more pronounced is how Bresson's characters always find themselves drawn into the vortex of some kind of moral and/or spiritual crisis. The intellectual thief in "Pickpocket", the desolate young wife in "A Gentle Woman", the abused teenage girl in "Mouchette", the self-destructive youth in "The Devil, Probably", the contemplative priest in "Diary of a Country Priest", and now the quiet simpleton-turned-morally bankrupt murderer in "L'Argent". Bresson's rigorous and steely formalist cinema should just be the perfect stage for the dark night of his characters' souls. Grace is attained not without some form of sacrifice and damnation of the soul.

It is this ideology that fills the mold of this filmmaker's astonishing pure art. Unrelentingly dark and morbid, perhaps, but a flickering light of salvation can still be seen through it all.

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