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Marcel L'Herbier visse in margine all'avanguardia sfruttandone le scoperte, in
particolare sforzandosi di narrare in modo soggettivo (filmare una scena attraverso gli occhi del
personaggio che la vede): formalismo e virtuosismo in
Eldorado (melodrammatica storia di una donna che
per mantenere il figlio fa la ballerina in un locale notturno), espressionismo e cubismo in L'Inhumaine (in
un palazzo fantascientifico una femme fatale è corteggiata da un fisico nucleare, un rajah e vari
riccastri, è morsa da un serpente, viene guarita con un oscuro rito dallo scienziato). Il suo
calligrafismo estenuante riuscì a scardinare le convenzioni cinematografiche: Le fut Mathias
Pascal e L'Argent, da Pirandello e Zola rispettivamente.
L'Argent is a three-hour long film; overlong and rarely shocking or
exciting; and the acting is poor.
Rumor spreads that the banker Saccardi is finished. His bank is, in fact,
the target of dirty manouvres by a rival banker,
Gunderman, who controls oil prices around the world and wants to teach
him a lesson.
The baroness Sandorf observes all these battles trying to profit from them.
Meanwhile, the young engineer and amateur aviator Hamelin has found out
a place that has rich deposits of oil, and his wife
is excited that they can finally get rich.
Hamelin and his wife see Saccard at a restaurant, where the banker morbidly
stares at the woman's legs. A mediator asks Saccard to listen to Hamelin's idea.
Saccard eagerly visits
Hamelin's place but mainly to stare at his wife.
However, Saccard finally realizes that Hamelin's idea is pure genius.
Saccard puts all his energies into the project and even
looks for an agreement with Gunderman but the rival rejects him.
Nonetheless, Saccard pretends that Gunderman sides with him and thus talks
other financiers in funding his venture with Hamelin.
Hamelin is reluctant to go ahead with the plan, but his greedy wife eventually
Saccard announces to the world the venture to
make the best gasoline out of Guyana's oil, and adds that Hamelin in person
will fly across the ocean to Guyana on that new oil.
Hamelin is right not to trust Saccard because the banker is already plotting
behind his back and flirting with his wife.
And, yet, the publicity due to the transatlantic flight helps raise more money around Europe.
News of a plane crash devastates his wife, who even pulls out a gun to kill
herself, but Saccard has already received a telegram that Hamelin is alive and
well, and he shows it to the derelict wife. She realizes that Saccard has
been cynically exploiting the episode to make more money in the stock exchange.
She yells at him, but he replies that he made them both rich.
However, Hamelin struggles to get the business going in Guyana.
Saccard spends money on Hamelin's wife, and people begin to gossip.
The sexy baroness, who used to be Saccard's lover and pretends to be still in
love, is jealous, and tells Hamelin what people think: that he
has invested in Hamelin only because infatuated with his wife, and that
the business is going badly, and that he will fail.
Saccard loses his temper and almost strangles her.
She leaves smiling, scheming as usual.
Hamelin sends a telegram that things are not going well in Guyana. He boards the
first steamship; Hamelin keeps the telegram to himself, leaving everybody else
to believe that business is growing.
Saccard finally tries to kiss Hamelin's wife, who resists him.
He reminds her that she is living on credit because she has been spending more
than she could afford.
Still scheming, the baroness visits Hamelin's wife and tells her that
Saccard has broken the law.
During an extravagant party staged by Saccard, the baroness incites Hamelin's
wife. After Saccard tries to kiss her again, the wife pulls out a gun to kill
him. The baroness, who has watched the event unfold, pretends to save Saccard's
life by stopping the woman from shooting.
Hamelin's wife has already signed a complaint that can be used in a court of law.
Gunderman launches his attack, causing shares in Saccard's bank to collapse.
Hamelin returns in bad health, one eye patched.
Saccard is arrested. Hamelin too, and the shock makes him blind.
Gunderman intervenes to have Hamelin released.
Even in jail Saccard starts planning his next venture, this time with the
his prison ward.
His masterpiece was the science-fiction fantasy melodrama
L'Inhumaine/ The Inhuman Woman (1924),
with sets designed by cubist painter Fernand Leger and by architects Alberto Cavalcanti and Robert Mallet-Stevens, and a soundtrack by classical composer Darius Milhaud.
Rejected by the beautiful singer Claire,
the Swedish scientist Einar pretends to commit suicide only to devote himself
to building a high-tech laboratory. Claire is so popular that men are willing
to do anything for her and another loser kills her.
Einar is able to resurrect her in his laboratory.