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L’Argent Review

Considering I’ve always wanted to visit the place myself, it’s rather nice to continually return to the streets of Paris through the medium of film. By the looks of it, it’s full of bribery, sleazy crime, gang warfare and coming-of-age café’s that are littered on every street corner. Seriously, you can’t go a step in any direction without stumbling into a story of plucky young youths shooting their shot at a life of crime. In this case, Bresson’s work in L’Argent has a surprising level of detail for the Parisian lifestyle and the desperation at hand, but doesn’t quite adapt anything of wholly engaging interest. Shuffling through the streets of this city only gets us so far, and Bresson doesn’t quite hook me in entirely to his world of forgery and theft. 

The characters are too easy to dislike, socialites and stuffed-up schoolboys that have no care for what they do or who it affects. Norbert specifically, the monobrow adds an extra layer of hate I have for him. But, the ability to hate these characters so quickly is a credit to the direction of Bresson. It’s not so much a credit to the performers, though, who are given some baffling directions that lead to some awkward pauses. There’s a great deal of patience required, something I never thought necessary for my first Bresson film. Patience isn’t needed for the build-up, but for the repetition and increasingly dreary premise. The counterfeit bill passes from hand to hand rather rapidly, but the interactions between the characters don’t feel all that genuine or inspired. 

Whilst the characters may not elicit wholly enjoyable moments, what Bresson does with his camera is effective and enjoyable. It’s hard not to engage with and fall into the world he wishes to present. Although it does feel rather simplistic, his camerawork is admirable and engaging. The craftsmanship on display is exceptional, it masks a story that feels rather underwhelming or lacking at times. Pockets of real brilliance and great moments are littered throughout, but they are, for the most part, few and far between.  

We move through the streets of Paris gracefully, Bresson’s direction is an incredible experience, but the characters he depicts, their interactions and motifs, aren’t nearly as interesting as I first thought they would be. Whilst the characters may be of issue, difficult to connect with and ultimately alienating from the story at heart, Bresson does manage to persuade me of the finer niceties to be found within France’s capital. It’s never overwhelmingly brilliant, but there are pockets of undeniable interest throughout. Bresson’s script capitulates often to a slightly underwhelming story of fakery and craftsmanship, how a completely innocent can be turned to a life of crime on the turn of a coin.  

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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