L'Argent AKA Money
R0 - Australia - Accent
Review written by and copyright: Rob Hunt (22nd December 2005).
The Film

"L'Argent" is Bresson's last film - and, whilst an acquired taste, remains a very poignant and thought-provoking film.

The film begins following two young boys and their 'prank' of spending a forged 500-franc note on a reasonably cheap item, to get most of the money back in legitimate money. Through more lies and deception the forged note (alongside more) is passed on to an innocent young man, who manages to get in trouble for attempting to spend it (not knowing of it's lack of legitimacy). After this his life begins to spiral out of control, before he is caught up in other escapades landing him on the wrong side of the law. Slowly he is transformed into a criminal; his marriage and family relationships wrecked simultaneously.

The film L'Argent is a slow and sad exploration of a series of unfortunate and unplanned events that result in the destruction of another's life. Through this Bresson has created a sadly realistic portrayal of characters emotions - even though the flow of the film is rather unrealistic. The film as a whole plays like a series of works of art mixed with story - lingering pauses occur from time to time, unnerving in some of their instances and reflective in others - like the scene when the main character and his wife are talking at the police station. The disjointedness of the reaction in the earlier scene, in the restaurant with the forgeries, feels unrealistic and yet also enhances the confusion at the discovery of the validity of the payment.

An intriguing and meaningful film, like all of Bresson's work it is best viewed as a work of art, although it functions as a film as well. The only thing I didn't like was the abrupt ending (not the conclusion of the film; the cutaway from final frame to DVD distributor) which felt unnatural and like an unfinished work of art - almost complete but missing that final stroke. Despite this the film is definitely worthwhile.

Video

Accent have given us a rather impressive transfer, in what looks like the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 - displayed here with black bars at either side of the screen (when viewed on a Widescreen TV). The picture is solid and clean, far more so than the clip extracts in the documentary, and there is little to complain about. The image itself has a "grainy" feel to it, and some of the darker scenes appear to only just 'cope' with the blacks, but overall this is a very nice print.

Audio

The original French audio is presented here, and whilst nothing spectacular the track does the job and well and is free of hisses and other minor annoyances. I'm not sure if this went under any form of a restoration job, but if it didn't it's been well preserved - sound effects are crisp (perhaps a bit too crisp at times) and dialogue is clear.
Subtitles are optional (well done, Accent!) and are done well - a bold yet not too distracting yellow font, that runs across the bottom of the screen and matches up to the dialogue well. Very pleasing.

Extras

Pleasingly, the majority of the extras from other regions have been transferred onto this edition, and - apart from the absence of the commentary (which was not Accent's fault - it was produced exclusively for the US edition) - nothing especially worthwhile appears to be missing from this release.

First off is the 'Marguerite Duras on Bresson' piece (quite brief) followed by the 'Robert Bresson TSR Interview' (far more substantial). Split by a chapter break inbetween this runs as one extended extra, confusingly labelled "Documentary" on the DVD menus. The Marguerite Duras bit was nice to listen to once, but nothing worth watching twice, in my opinion. The second Interview covered a lot more detail, and interviewing Bresson himself held my attention more. It was very interesting to hear about how Bresson sees his work and how he sees cinema itself. The best feature on the DVD. Total running time for both is 14 minutes and 12 seconds.

Next up is the original Theatrical Trailer (0:24). Confusing, and really unappealing, it gives nothing about the film away - nor anything else for that matter. Short and weird.

Finally there are a series of bonus Accent Trailers for "Pickpocket", "The Trial of Joan of Arc", "A Heart in Winter", "Code Unknown" and "La Belle Noiseuse" (8:14 in total). Most of these are no more interesting than the Trailer for "L'Argent" itself, and their presence is superfluous to the overall package.

Also included with the package is an 8-Page Collector's Booklet containing an essay by Australian film critic Adrian Martin - a pleasing addition, and nice to see Accent going a little bit further since they had no access to the R1 commentary.

Overall

Accent have provided an excellent DVD release of "L'Argent" - sadly, unable to provide the commentary on the R1, but with the bonus essay exclusive - so still a very good release. For fans of Bresson who are unbothered about the commentary, this is probably the best choice, and I would recommend it if found at a good price!

The Film: B Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: C Overall: B-

 


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