The ABCs of Bresson

A searing story about the circulation of a counterfeit five-hundred-franc note and the moral ruin it leaves in its wake, Robert Bresson’s thirteenth and final feature, L’argent (1983), stands as one of his most urgent spiritual testaments, eventually focusing in on a truck driver who winds up on a path to violence after passing the bill. In adapting Tolstoy’s The Forged Coupon, and transplanting its action from czarist Russia to modern-day Paris, the director continued to hone many of his signature stylistic gestures and thematic concerns, further paring down his elliptical editing and stark compositions to conduct this piercing inquiry into greed and transgression. In “L’argent,” A to Z, a video essay on our new edition of the film, scholar James Quandt goes through the alphabet, examining some of Bresson’s most enduring preoccupations through their expression in the filmmaker’s swan song. Reflection and repetition are the watchwords in the excerpt below, in which Quandt discusses the play of transparency and deception in the film’s preponderance of glass surfaces as well as the rhythm established by Bresson’s frequent rhyming of images and sounds.

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