I Found It At the Movies: 1983—L’argent (Robert Bresson)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1983: L’argent (Robert Bresson)

If you’re a Bob Dylan fan (count me among the many) whose introduction to Dylan came by way of his solo work, there is something almost shocking the first time you hear Dylan accompanied by a band. It’s the same with Bresson and his work in color. By the time I saw L’argent, the director’s last film, I had probably seen six or seven of his others, all in black and white.

When Bresson does a film in color, its formal elements take on a different effect, something slightly more psychedelic than austere. However, the emotional impact and transcendental qualities are still very much intact. In fact, my experience in watching L’argent, along with Pickpocket, are the most powerful of any I have had with Bresson’s work. As always with the French master, the work sneaks up on you, gets under your skin and leaves you in a different place than any other film.

This film belongs in a small group—with Dreyer’s Gertrud, Huston’s The Dead, Murnau’s Tabu, Ford’s 7 Women, Jacques Becker’s Le trou and Yang’s Yi Yi—of cinema’s greatest swan songs.

What moviemakers can learn: Cinema, like our lives, can often be so crowded and over-adorned that it becomes difficult to recognize what is most essential. This issue is at the heart of Bresson’s work. Watch how he strips cinema of all its habitual elements to show us the medium in its purest and most basic form.

Other contenders for 1983: I still have some things to see from this year. These include: Shôhei Imamura’s The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama-bushi kô), Wim Wenders’ Hammett, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia, Abbas Kiarostami’s Fellow Citizen (Hamshahri) and Charles Burnett’s My Brother’s Wedding. From this year, I really like Eric Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach (Pauline à la plage). I love Chris Marker’s Sans soleil, Maurice Pialat’s À nos amours, Alain Tanner’s In the White City (Dans la ville blanche) and Jim McBride’s Breathless, and my closest runner-up is Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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