"You, O money, are the cause of a restless life! Because of you we journey toward a premature death; you provide cruel nourishment for the evils of men; the seed of our cares sprouts from your head," wrote Propertius long ago. Robert Bresson's film L'Argent (France/Switzerland) could be a meditation on this text. Actually, it is based on a novella by Tolstoy. The film is slow-moving, precise in its characterizations, and ambiguous in its conclusion.

A rich French schoolboy who owes money to a friend passes three counterfeit notes in a photography store. The shopkeeper, knowing the notes are counterfeit, hands them over to Yvon (Christian Patey), an oil truck operator. This young husband and father loses his job over the incident; the court believes the shopkeeper.

After a bungled bank robbery attempt, Yvon is sentenced to three years in prison. During this period, his child dies, and his wife leaves him. Yvon is a hardened and angry man once he is back on the street. He exploits the kindness of an old woman who gives him helter, and then murders her and the others in the house. L'Argent is a bleak movie about the capriciousness of fate, the sanctuary money gives the rich, and the "cruel nourishment" it provides for the "evils of men."