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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


Leo Tolstoy (inspired by "Faux billet" by) (as Tolstoï), Robert Bresson
3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »




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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


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


Featured in Life Itself (2014) See more »

User Reviews

Piqued pockets
5 November 2011 | by tieman64See all my reviews

"They are not intrinsically evil, but their behaviour has evil consequences." - Bresson

Economist Frederic Bastiat once wrote "the parable of the broken window", in which he examined the economic implications of a boy breaking a shopkeeper's window in a fictional town. After the window's destruction, so the parable goes, the townspeople then observe that the shopkeeper will need to pay a local glass-maker to fix his window, that the glass-maker might in turn spend these earnings at a bakery, that the baker would then spend this profit elsewhere, and so on. Therefore, the townspeople conclude, the broken window turns out to be not a loss, but rather a stimulus that starts an unending ripple effect of new economic activity. Rather than a problem, the boy's act of destruction seems to be a way to give the economy of the fictional town a boost.

Bastiat's point, however, is that whilst this "stimulus" is easily observed, there is a corresponding absence of spending, along with motions elsewhere within the system which go on unseen. For example, forced to spend his savings on a replacement window, the hapless shopkeeper is now unable to pay for other things, like a new display case or shelves. The expense of buying a window is thereby a silent, unseen loss of potential business expansion. So while the glass-maker may benefit from the increased business in the short term, it has come at the expense of others. Overall, the total wealth in the economy has been decreased by the cost of a window.

Indeed, if wealth could somehow be increased by breaking windows, why not break every window in sight? If a glass-maker's increased business constitutes economic gain, why not destroy the entire town so that the whole population could be put to work rebuilding everything? Despite the resulting "full employment", this scenario would represent an enormous and senseless destruction of wealth. Though of course such wanton destruction is sometimes the aim; war loves profiting off destruction, and destructive cycles are often precisely what keeps our economic systems afloat.

Regardless, Bastiat's parable relates to our current economic crisis (the late 2000 financial crisis and subsequent measures, bailouts and tax breaks) in other ways. If governments can benefit economies by paying off the debts of a few, why not pay off the debts of all? Why not take on the mortgages and credit card debts of entire countries? Bastiat's answer (which even basic physics told us centuries ago): spending money creates no wealth and aggregate debt must perpetually increase. The "economic activity" we see as a result of government spending is but the transfer of wealth from here to there. Indeed, when the overhead of government bureaucracy is taken into account (and the fact that the government lends its money at zero and is then forced to buy it back at 3 or 4 percent, along with the contradictions of interest-based/issued money) it actually results in a long term loss; an entropy effect if you will. Today governments are unveiling a slew of stimulus packages which are based on the premise, or wager, that the economy can be renewed and led to wealth creation. But while such "stimulated" financial health may seem obvious or desired in the short term, it always comes at a higher cost down the road; deeper holes to fall into and future bondage.

Robert Bresson's final two films, "The Devil Probably" and "Money", are implicitly about hidden costs and the invisible currents of our economy, though Bresson is more concerned with how such things intersect with issues of spirituality, personal autonomy and existentialism. In this regard, "the Devil" of "The Devil Probably" alluded to "invisible market forces" which "influence everything". Struggling to concoct a means of ethically living within such an all-pervasive system, our hero thus opts to commit suicide, Bresson finding a certain spirituality in his hero's revocation of the material. "Money", however, presents the flip-side of "Devil": the grotesque toll living within the system has on the soul, spirit and body. Note that by this point Bresson was fully atheist. His conceptions of "soul" and "spirituality" are here more akin to a code of ethics.

The plot: the son of wealthy parents is in debt. He counterfeits 500 dollars - think of him as a central bank, printing money when it suits him - and knowingly passes this money onto a photography shop, who just as knowingly passes the money to Yvon, an oil delivery man. Yvon attempts to use this counterfeit money at a restaurant, but is arrested because the proprietors have no faith in him and his money. The word credit itself comes from the Latin word "credere", "to believe", the system as a whole fuelled by a kind of irrational faith.

Yvon then quickly descends into life of crime, before meeting a woman who offers him redemption. He murders her for cash instead and then guiltily turns himself over to the police. Like "The Devil Probably", money, labelled the new divine by everyone in the film, is seen to have a life of its own, controlling everyone and everything in society. As it circulates, humans impassively disadvantaged fellow humans, whilst the wealthy use their power to escape both the law and such "trickle down" disadvantages. In the impersonal detachment of contemporary society, money serves as the surrogate for human emotions, which are frivolously expressed through its casual exchange. But money also exhibits a near biological behaviour: virulent and infectious, the notes contaminate everyone who comes into contact with them, sins escalating, snowballing and slowly destroying souls. Yvon himself struggles to summon the will necessary to escape money's grip and the futures it foreordains. He is forever held in its sway. The film's narrative trajectory is literally from a ATM machine's mouth to perpetual confinement. It's a reverse of "Probably's" suicide: slow, pitiful and ignoble.

7.9/10 – Multiple viewings required.

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France | Switzerland


French | Latin

Release Date:

18 May 1983 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

L'Argent See more »

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Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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