L'argent 1928
Marcel L'Herbier is a key figure of 1920s French cinema and his modernization of Emile Zola's novel, L'Argent, released in 1929 on the eve of the sound revolution, is his most ambitious work. The scope of the film is inspired by Abel Gance's Napoleon , but rather than talk of heroes, L'Herbier has chosen to attack what he hated most, the power of money. Though he took Zola's novel as his starting point, he retained little beyond the title and the outline of the plot. The film's action is transferred to the 1920s and unfolds within opulent, over-sized sets built by Lazare Meerson and Andre Barsacq.

The plot of L'argent (Money) follows a pair of rival bankers/tycoons as they wrangle, one to save his bank from impending collapse by creating a new business in the colonies out of a publicity stunt; the other in his attempts to ruin his rival by secretly buying shares in his bank to use, later, as a weapon. Both men are devious, but each has a weak point when it comes to sexual relations with women.

This is a masterpiece, one of the best French films in the period before Jean Renoir would come along and rewrite all the rules.


Director: Marcel L'Herbier
Cast: Brigitte Helm, Marie Glory, Yvette Guilbert, Pierre Alcover, Alfred Abel, Henry Victor
Country: France
Genre: Drama, Romance

L'argent (1928) Flicker Alley
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BD50 | 1080p AVC | 02:30:42 | 40.8 Gb + 3% rec
Language: French intertitles
Subtitles: English

Extras:

New score by Olivier Massot, preformed by the National Orchestra of Lyon under the direction of Timothy Brock

Vintage score by Rodney Sauer, preformed by the Mont Alto Orchestra

The Making of L'Argent (Autour de L'Argent): A pioneering documentary, directed by L'Herbier's assistant Jean Dreville, featuring incredible footage of the cast and crew during the actual production as well as the director's comments recorded later in 1971 (39:17). Presented with two new music scores

The Two Restorations of Autour de L'Argent - A restoration demonstration of Autour de L’Argent with Serge Bromberg (5:07)

Prometheus Banker (Promethee... Banquier): A perfect thematic complement to L'Argent, complete with new restoration, this short film by Marcel L'Herbier tells the story of a banker-seducing vampire (16:07)

Photo Gallery - A slide show presentation of vintage marketing materials, behind-the-scene stills and more from L’Argent (4:11)

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L'argent (1928) Eureka – Masters of Cinema
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2xDVD9 | PAL 4:3 | 02:44:54 | 13.2 Gb + 3% rec
Language: French intertitles
Subtitles: English

Extras:

Introduction by Jean-Francois Zygel (2:45)
An intro originally recorded for the French Carlotta DVD release in 2000 has the composer and pianist who provides the improvised score on this disc introduce the film and enthusiastically sing its virtues. He also provides some detail on aspects like the casting of small roles that you won't find elsewhere on this release.

DVD2:

About L'Argent (40:10)
A making-of documentary for a 1928 silent feature? You'd better believe it, and you'll be pushed to find a modern equivalent as interesting and artistically adventurous as this one, the first film of then 20-year-old filmmaking novice Jean Dreville. Providing an welcome glimpse of L'Herbier the director in action, it also details how some of the more complex camera shots were achieved, revelatory footage that sees a camera operator mounted on a wooden platform suspended by cables, or pulled around a room standing on a wheeled tripod. For anyone trying to achieve bolder camera movements on a micro-budget even today, this is inspiring stuff, and for anyone interested it film history it's a goldmine of worthwhile material. First shown back in 1928, a commentary and additional sound effects were added by Dreville in 1971. Some restoration work has apparently been done, but plenty of dust and scratches remain.

Marcel L'Herbier: Poet of the Silent Art (54:07)
A scholarly look at L'Herbier's career up to L'Argent, which becomes the focus of analysis and appreciation in the second half. There are contributions from a flock of film historians, including those charged with the preservation of his work, and from L'Herbier's daughter and critic and writer Noel Burch, for whom L'Argent is the director's crowning achievement. There's also some archive interview with the man himself, and a few extracts from the above documentary. Critical reactions to the director's work are read out by actor and L'Herbier enthusiast Frederic Pierrot, who effectively acts as host.

Brigette Helm's Arrival in Paris (1:19)
Pretty much what the title claims, footage of Bridgette Helm being greeted and photographed on a Paris railway platform, shot by Jean Dreville.

L'Argent Screen Tests (17:15)
A compilation of 1928 screen tests for the film, featuring some of the actors, largely in close-up, running through a range of emotions or acting out short sequences. Of real interest to film historians and featuring a few nicely off-guard moments, it's a miracle this has even survived all these years and that it looks as good as it does in places.

Accompanying Silent Cinema (7:18)
A video piece produced for the French Carlotta DVD in which Jean-Francois Zygel engagingly outlines the process of providing musical accompaniment to silent films.

Sound Demonstration: Stock Exchange Scene (3:34)
When L'Argent was screened in larger cinemas the print was accompanied by two 78rpm records containing sounds of aircraft and crowds to be played during the sequence that cross-cuts between the take-off of Jacques plane and the frenzied activity of the stock exchange. The sequence is run twice, with and without the sound effects.

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