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Adapted from Émile Zola's novel of the same name, L'Argent is an all-too-timely work of filmmaking loosely based off of the 1882 collapse of Union Générale bank, which subsequently crashed the stock market and plunged France into a decade-long recession. Helmed by Marcel L'Herbier, one of the original members of French cinema's avant-garde, the film uses Zola's tale of mid-1800s stock market speculation to comment on the 1920s greed-fueled fascination with global economies. The story centers on the unscrupulous Nicolas Saccard, played by Pierre Alcover, who makes a bad bet, loses his societal standing and his mistress, and tries to recoup it all by backing an aviator with a daredevil plan to cross the Atlantic to exploit raw materials in the New World.
L'Argent is L'Herbier's silent-era swan song. Known for his ability to translate artistic and innovative sensibilities into commercial fare, L'Herbier designed the film to compete with the super-productions coming out of France, United States, and Germany at the time. It is thus bursting with state-of-the-art techniques, a big-name international cast, 1500 extras, and was shot by France's highest paid cameraman at the time, Jules Krüger. L'Herbier made use of a dozen cameramen flying on pulleys and dollies, as well as an unmanned camera that descended and revolved to capture the stock exchange in full frenzy. Even as the pilot embarks on his trans-Atlantic flight, action on the stock market floor intensifies in a montage of Eisensteinian proportions.
L'Argent was forgotten by many until it was reconstructed in the 1970s, and did not receive a proper preservation until the 1990s. Now, thanks to Lobster Films—with the support of Marie-Ange L'Herbier (the director's daughter), the French CNC and SACEM, the original camera negative of this silent classic has been rescanned at a pristine 4K resolution. Flicker Alley's publication of L'Argent features a new score from Olivier Massot, preformed by the National Orchestra of Lyon under the direction of Timothy Brock, and an earlier orchestral adaptation from Rodney Sauer, preformed by the Mont Alto Orchestra. Also included in this deluxe edition is The Making of L'Argent, one of the first-ever behind-the-scenes documentaries of a feature film. This bonus featurette, complete with a new 4K restoration from the original 35mm elements, and two new musical compositions, including a fascinating score by Tempsion, is a masterpiece in itself.