Adapted from Émile Zola's novel of the same name, Marcel L'Herbier's L'Argent [Money] is an opulent classic of late-silent era cinema. Filmed in part on location at the Paris stock exchange, it reveals a world of intrigue, greed, decadence, and ultimately corruption and scandal when business dealings and amorous deceit combine. Business tycoons Saccard and Gunderman lock horns when the former attempts to raise capital for his faltering bank. To inflate the price of his stock, Saccard concocts a duplicitous publicity stunt involving the unwitting aviator Hamelin and a flight across the Atlantic to drill for oil, much to the dismay of his wife Line. While Hamelin is away, the lascivious Saccard attempts to seduce Line, whose own temptation by the allure of money puts herself and her husband in danger pawns in a high-stakes chess game played out by unscrupulous speculators. With an all-star cast (Brigitte Helm and Alfred Abel, fresh from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, alongside Pierre Alcover, Yvette Guilbert, and luminary of the French avant-garde Antonin Artaud) and a mammoth budget, L'Argent is comparable in period and scale with other celebrated epics of the silent era, such as Abel Gance's Napoléon. With its use of portable cameras that literally descend into the Bourse and revolve around its lavish contours, L'Argent represents a type of cinematic Impressionism distinctive to the silent art a poetry that would change forever with the coming of sound. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present for the very first time on home video in the UK this crowning moment of silent cinema.
Theatrical Release: December 25th, 1928
DVD Review: Eureka 2-disc (Masters of Cinema Spine # 40) - Region 0 - PAL
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|Distribution||Eureka (Masters of Cinema Spine # 40) - Region 0 - PAL|
Average Bitrate: 5.59 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||Silent - improvised musical accompaniment by French composer and pianist Jean-François Zygel (2.0 or 5.1)|
introduction to the film by Jean-François Zygel (2:44)
footage of star Brigitte Helm (fresh from Fritz Lang's Metropolis)
arriving in Paris for the shooting of L'Herbier's film (1:18)
This is advertised as 'A pristine transfer from a fine grain print struck from the original negative, featuring the director's cut fought for by L'Herbier over many years, the film speed as projected in the late 1920s, and the entirety of each frame fully displayed'.
The latter part of the above statement is probably the explanation as to the combing noticeable in the transfer - due to unconverted frame rate - which I really have no issue with as it was far less intrusive than I have seen many times before. All things considered the image quality is pretty impressive with deep rich black levels (possibly marginally boosted.) There is damage in the form of light scratches and speckles. Some shots are obviously much hazier and weaker than others but it is easily watchable on this dual-layered first disc.
Audio is a neat bonus with the new score in an interestingly mixed 5.1 track. Those used to silent film treatment will probably be quite pleased with the surround although it is less dynamic than many may expect. Still it's mere existence is pretty cool - I must say. I, personally, enjoyed this track - I found it odd at times but it seems to work well with the entire production. Subtitles for the, original, French intertitle cards are removable (see samples below).
Supplement-wise we start with a video introduction to the film by film score's composer Jean-François Zygel running about 3 minutes in French with optional English subtitles. Aside from the 2 3/4 hour feature this is all that is on the first disc. The second disc (also dual-layered) has the highly informative Jean Dréville's documentary akin to a 'Making of...", entitled About L'Argent (French with optional English subtitles.) The other significant supplement is a 54 minute 2007 documentary profiling the director, Marcel L'Herbier. This opened my eyes to an artist that I previously knew little more than his name. Kind of mood setting prior to your viewing you may wish to indulge in some of the other extras like the minute long archival footage of star Brigitte Helm (fresh from Fritz Lang's Metropolis) arriving in Paris for the shooting of L'Herbier's film, and the archival screen-tests of the L'Argent actors although this may run long for some at almost 20 minutes. On the digital front we also get a 7 minute demonstration of L'Herbier's innovative sound techniques, which used 78rpm records during key scenes of L'Argent. As with other MoC releases we are treated to a lavish 80-page perfectly-bound booklet with archival publicity stills, a long essay by noted professor of French film Richard Abel (French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915 1929; French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology, 1907 1939; The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896 1914), newly translated interviews with L'Herbier, and newly translated extracts from the director's biography.
A good friend had recommended this film to me a couple of years back and I'm glad I finally was able to see it. She was right - a masterpiece indeed! We strongly recommend this Masters of Cinema 80th Anniversary 2-disc package as yet another of their best efforts - worthy of any collection far beyond lovers of the silent era. Buy now!