L'Argent

L'Argent ★★★★½

Bresson's last movie is both maddening and bewitching, as is fitting for what is also the purest distillation of his peculiar aesthetics. The dead-pan non-acting and staging seem all wrong at first, even if you're used to Bresson, until eventually the film develops a rhythm that feels entirely right for the material, and if you're not careful, for the next day or so you'll find yourself watching other movies, or even talking to other people, and thinking they're the ones who are off. And this movie might be the most useful for pointing out the distinction between Bresson and his most famous acolytes, the estimable Dardenne siblings, especially since L'ARGENT is superficially the clearest antecedent to their style. Bresson maps all the material pressures that make evil an overdetermined fact of life, and yet there's still an element of random chance, particularly when it comes to human passions, that constitutes what people call grace in Bresson's movie. The Dardennes are much more scientific, and the accumulation of social detail leaves no remainder, and little doubt about why people act the way they do when they do. In L'ARGENT, even with everything laid bare and cause and effect made manifest, there's still something mysterious, still some element of pure, malignant accident that plays into how events unfold. Horrifyingly pure, but beautiful too, and so much weirder and more poetic than any film labeled Bressonian in the past twenty years.