10/40/70 - L'Argent
In the book 10/40/70, author Nicholas Rombes recognizes the necessity of constraint as a means of liberating film criticism in the digital era. In this section of my reviews, I will be deploying the same techniques utilized by Rombes; analyzing the contents of the frames a film contains at the 10 minute, 40 minute, and 70 minute marks. These reviews will be posted every Wednesday once more! Although this is a Thursday.
Craigen Z Oster
L'Argent (Robert Bresson, 1983)
A very matter-of-fact statement. A very matter-of-fact framing. A very matter-of-fact gaze. This movie should be, and seemingly is simple. But then every frame contains so much the more I look at it, despite how stripped away it seems initially. Just above Yvon, the ‘hero’ of Bresson’s final film, I can make out two more faces; these appearing on the calendar on the back wall, that somehow seems to match the pattern and color of the marble wall to both its right and left. It could easily be mistaken for nothing, and maybe it is, but I suspect not. The film itself is a labyrinth of faces and bodies, traveling deeper and deeper with each new person that is met into the collective psyche of modern life, a society that is completely dominated and controlled by money itself. In this image, Yvon is naive to think that he is in control, that when he recognizes an injustice, he can just go make the change and fix it.
With the image frozen, it appears that Lucien (the young man who seemingly is the catalyst for Yvon’s descent when he decides to lie about giving Yvon the forged money) is approaching the ATM like one approaches the altar when coming to receive communion. His head is bowed. He is dressed well. He may as well be about to kneel before the ATM. The physical dollars are akin to the eucharist at mass. Money and the Eucharist are not merely physical symbols of the greater power; the bread is literally Christ in traditional Catholic teaching, and money is literally the physical manifestation of the controlling force of Bresson’s world in L’Argent.
Darkness, save the barely visible reflections of the moon(?) and rear lights of a fading police brigade. Money itself has corrupted and extinguished the light out of everyone it touches in this film. There is no justice in the legal system for the wrongly accused. There is no everlasting love between husband and wife. There are no kind-hearted youth. Its all black for Bresson, and whatever hope there was to be had exists only in transit at the furthest edges of existence as it is destined to be wiped out entirely.