L'argent @ Robert Classic French Film Festival
Robert Bresson, 1984, 84 min., color, DCP projection source
In his ruthlessly clear-eyed final film, French master Robert Bresson pushed his unique blend of spiritual rumination and formal rigor to a new level of astringency. Transposing a Tolstoy novella to contemporary Paris, Largent follows a counterfeit bill as it originates as a prop in a schoolboy prank, then circulates among the corrupt and the virtuous alike before landing with a young truck driver and leading him to incarceration and violence. With brutal economy, Bresson constructs his unforgiving vision of original sin out of starkly perceived details, rooting his characters in a dehumanizing material world that withholds any hope of transcendence.
The New Yorkers Anthony Lane says of Largent: It is as swift and wintry as a sudden frost. As often with Bresson, the actors are mostly nonprofessionals, and they move through the series of terrible events like stoics and sleepwalkers, lacking the will to fight fate. A schoolboy pays for a picture frame with a forged note, which enters the social system as if it were a virus, and leads inLargent the end to a feverish killing spree, in which not even the saintly are spared. Yet Bresson who was eighty-two years old when the film came out, and clearly in no mood for mellowing frames the acts of wickedness, both great and small, with a terrifying calm. Prepare to be haunted by his closeups of objects: a wallet, a ladle, a bowl of hot coffee, an axe. They might almost be guilty themselves.
With an introduction and post-film discussion by Colin Burnett, interim chair and associate professor of Film & Media Studies at Washington U. and author of The Invention of Robert Bresson: The Auteur and His Market (2017).
Sponsored by Jane M. & Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation
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