French film, to me, has always had an emphasis on character development. I’ve watched films that manipulated me into rooting for the worst person on earth and feeling like I understood how they could be that bad. The particular film I’m thinking of was later banned and now I cannot find a reference to the title or anything. So, sorry for the lack of title. It showed in the 90’s. But it was definitely a very interesting introduction to French film.
This film, in many ways, is similar to the film I refer to above because the main character starts out ordinary and becomes despicable. While I was desturbed by my the banned film, and am dissappointed by the main character in L’Argent, I do not relate to how Yvonne could make the choices he has made. Because of the stylistic choices Bresson makes I was not attached to any of the characters. The seemed sometimes mis-casted because they were all model-like in looks. But even if I can accept their lack of texture, they rehearsed their lines without emotion–just matter of fact-like. This isn’t to say there was no emotion because there was. I felt the loss Yvonne felt when his wife left, and her reasons for leaving were justified. Her worry about his new job as a driver of sorts was clear. Yvonne’s anger at Lucienne was clear and his torment about the direction of his life seemed evident. However, with each decision he made there was an internal world that led to his making that decision that the audience was completely denied. We did not see him cry or cringe, or try to do something different and fail, such as is the usual way we are let in on the internal life of a character.
The way this film was shot to just show the pertinent nugget of each action or interaction takes the “show don’t tell” of filmmaking to a more extreme level. Watching this film was much like reading Neuromancer by William Gibson, where readers often need to orient themselves because the imagery available challenges that particular threshold for keeping your reader or viewer completely informed. In many ways, this is the ultimate tribute to a viewer that says “I think you are intelligent enough to follow along without the added reinforcements”, which I can appreciate.
In the end, I’m left thinking about the decisions Yvonne made and am frankly dissappointed in him. This is ultimately because I could not follow his internal process. I see the wrong doings made to him and his lack of voice on each occasion. I can see how noone helped him and at some point wondered if he had family somewhere. He seemed utterly alone, existentially alone. There was talk of God forgiving him and others pardoning him, but in the end his character became what it was because of experiences he had in his life.