Monday, May 10, 2021

Show me 'The Money!' See French epic 'L'Argent' (1928) on Thursday, 5/13 in Plymouth, N.H.

Original promotional poster for the French silent film epic 'L'Argent' (1928).

Coming up next: music for 'L'Argent' (1928), one of those sprawling biggies from Europe and a film I've never tried scoring before.

Well, there's a first time for everything, and in this case it's Thursday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center. 

More details about the film and the screening are in the press release below. But first, a few notes from yesterday's screening of the silent version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916) at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

When I put this on the schedule, I didn't realize it would be Mother's Day. And it also turned out to be one of those sparkling spring days we get here in New England before the summertime humidity settles in. 

Even so, the Town Hall Theatre was about half-full with people ready for an adventure. So it was successful from the exhibitor's point of view.

Alas, I have to say Universal's restoration and reissue of the picture turned out to be something of a botched job. 

The film looks fantastic, as excellent first-generation material survives. 

But a good chunk of the middle of the film has scenes that are clearly out of order, which really really  detracts from the experience.

And the thing is, it's not one of those cases of a film being intentionally vague, or deliberately misleading, or whatever. There are just scenes that are obviously out of order. It's that simple.

Example: We get dramatic scenes of libertine adventurer Charles Denver on 'Mysterious Island,' lost and looking insane in the jungle, with no explanation of how he got there. Then, a bit later, we see him back at sea on his well-equipped yacht, deciding to get rowed ashore. And so on.

Attention Universal: if you want input about how to fix this, I have about 60 people in southern New Hampshire who would be happy to give you notes. It can't be that hard. Did anyone bother to screen this before it got released?

I wonder if it was an issue of money. And that topic takes us to the next silent film adventure on the calendar: the ambitious 1928 French epic 'L'Argent' (meaning 'Money') from director Marcel L'Herbier.

Catch a rare chance to see this piece of cinematic history on Thursday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center up in Plymouth, N.H. 

More info below. See you there! 

P.S. Badly punning promotional catchphrase: "See 'L'Argent!' The Change Will Do You Good!"

P.P.S.: "L'Argent!' You Can Bank On It!"

P.P.P.S.: "L'Argent!' A Film Of Great Interest!"

Okay, I'll stop now.

*   *   *

Another piece of original promotional art. Is it just me or do his fingers look like some kind of unusual 1920s French neckwear?

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Silent film epic ‘L'Argent’ (1928) at Flying Monkey on Thursday, May 13

Innovative French blockbuster about high finance and corruption to be screened with live music

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—A rarely shown early French movie that broke new cinematic ground is returning to the big screen at the Flying Monkey.

'L'Argent' (1928), a drama about big business corruption, will run on Thursday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth.

The screening, the latest in the Flying Monkey's silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent films.

"This is a rare chance to see a terrific film as it was intended to shown: not on TV at home or on a laptop, but on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience," Rapsis said.

Admission is $10 per person, general admission. Tickets are available online at or at the door.

The Flying Monkey continues to observe all recommended Covid-19 safety protocols. Capacity is limited to allow for social distancing, and patrons are required to wear facial coverings until seated.

Loosely based on Emile Zola's 1891 novel of the same name, 'L'Argent' (French for 'Money') follows the story of an embattled bank speculator in Paris who backs a scheme for an daredevil aviator to fly across the Atlantic.

Intended to revive his flagging business empire, this desperate adventure brings about personal and financial ruin for an ever-widening circle of people.

The movie, conceived on a grand scale by director Marcel L'Herbier, originally ran 3½ hours. The version available today has been trimmed to 2½ hours. 

At the time, L'Herbier faced intense criticism for updating the Zola's classic story from the 1860s to the 1920s.

The director argued that Zola's tale spoke to timeless truths, and that updating it to the then-present day would show its universality.

The international cast includes two performers, Brigette Helm and Alfred Abel, who played key roles a year earlier in Fritz Lang's futuristic epic 'Metropolis' (1927).

'L'Argent' won acclaim for its visual design. The movie features enormous sets (some specially built, some borrowed from real life) and memorable camerawork by cinematographer Jules Kruger.

Some scenes required location shooting with large numbers of extras. The departure of the transatlantic flight was filmed at Le Bourget airport. For three days over the weekend of Pentecost L'Herbier was allowed to take over the Paris Bourse, employing 2,000 extras in the stock-exchange scenes.

Still more challenging was a night-time scene in the Place de l'Opéra which had to be specially lit and filled with people to convey the feverish excitement of waiting for news of the flight.

Upon release at the very end of the silent era, the film enjoyed some commercial success, particularly in Germany.

Its reception among critics was more mixed, as some regarded it as a visual triumph while others found scant justification in the story for the indulgence in spectacular sets and energetic camerawork.

In the 1970s, a detailed study by critic Noël Burch, who argued that L'Argent was a ground-breaking work and one of the cinema's greatest achievements, launched a re-evaluation of the film.

As a result, Marcel L'Herbier's  assessment that this was the summit of his silent career has found wider endorsement

In creating music for silent films, accompanist Jeff Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra and creates a traditional "movie score" sound.

For each film, Rapsis improvises a music score using original themes created beforehand. No music is written down; instead, the score evolves in real time based on audience reaction and the overall mood as the movie is screened.

'L'Argent' (1928) will be shown on Thursday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission is $10 per person general admission. Tickets are available online at or at the door. For more information, call the Flying Monkey at (603) 536-2551.

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