“Oh, money, visible god — what we wouldn’t do for you.”
A delivery man (Christian Patey) finds his life changed forever when he’s handed several counterfeit bills by an unscrupulous photography store owner (Didier Baussy).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Downward Spiral
- Falsely Accused
- French Films
- Robert Bresson Films
Based on Tolstoy’s story “The Forged Coupon”, Robert Bresson’s final film is a clear indictment against a mercenary society in which an innocent worker can be forced to pay dearly for the callous indifference and moral bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie. What begins as a naughty schoolboy prank — a wealthy teenager, miffed at his father’s refusal to give him extra pocket money, uses a forged bill to get change at a frame shop — quickly shifts to criminal activity, as the shop’s irritated owner (Didier Baussy) knowingly pawns the money off onto Patey, who is subsequently arrested when he innocently tries to spend his earnings. When Baussy convinces his employee (Vincent Risterucci) to lie against Patey in court, Patey’s downward spiral continues, leading him to a life of petty crime, violence, and imprisonment, which are ultimately viewed as catalysts for the death of his daughter and the dissolution of his marriage. In the film’s tragic denouement, Patey impacts the lives of yet another innocent family — thus perpetuating the cycle of devastation sparked by the film’s opening “boyish prank”. It’s bleak stuff, to be sure, and Bresson’s signature application of stylized detachment makes it particularly difficult to watch the story with anything other than morbid curiosity. Indeed, the entire screenplay — which borders strategically on contrivance — seems more like a formalized exploration of moral ambiguity than a living narrative, and I’ll admit I’m not sure where my sentiments on it lie. With that said, as the capstone of Bresson’s unique oeuvre, most film fanatics will at least be curious to check it out.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A disturbing and provocative screenplay
No, but it’s worth viewing once. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)