a chilly final act

Unfortunately, Robert Bresson’s chilly, fatalistic L’argent (France, 1983) brought to mind everything I dislike so intensely in Kubrick’s films. But even if the film so relentlessly bleak that I found it nearly unpalatable, I fully admit that within the confines of his very narrow worldview Bresson crafts an interesting portrait of how capitalistic society swallows up and spits out the individual, and does so without a single trace of mercy.  Considering that it’s his last film, it’s also worth noting that the film seems to lack even the slightest trace of sentimentality, the common downfall (but understandable impulse) of nearly every artist in the final stretches of a lengthy career.

Indeed, L’Argent is also a decisive demonstration that Bresson ended his career as a master of the form. Throughout the film there are little stylistic flourishes that shock in their brilliantly calculated effect, particularly during the moments where emotion and violence threaten to penetrate the film’s icy exterior and Bresson quickly, subtly cuts away to a single object—a hand, a dog—which somehow renders the unseen action all the more powerful and/or horrific. Much too cold for my taste, but I can’t help but (rather grudgingly) admire it.

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