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 avantgarde 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.