First of all, the 5-star rating applies to both the film itself as well as the 2-disc set by Eureka! which has quite an impressive, thick booklet with many photographs from the film with extensive notes, and many surprising bonus features on the supplement disc. And "L'Argent" certainly deserves this first-class treatment because it stands out as one of the world's finest films from the late silent era (being the late 1920s) and would even surpass most modern films in many aspects of cinematography. "L'Argent" equals silent classics like "Metropolis", "Sunrise" and other French classics such as "La Roue" and "Napoleon", but just as each of these films has its own style and characteristics, so does "L'Argent" under the direction of French director, Marcel L'Herbier.
L'Herbier utilized what was at that time new and innovative camera techniques and angles which still impress viewers today because they are part of a visual art form, namely that of the silent film telling a story with images; and a few subtitles when necessary. The story is easily understood because it could be taken right out of today's headlines, and the concept of greed and power are universal and even timeless in this modern age. Based on Emile Zola's novel set several decades earlier, L'Herbier decided to place the story in contemporary times, showing the hustle and bustle at the Paris Stock Exchange with striking and breathtaking angles, camera movements and editing, along with many other exciting scenes from the year 1928. For me, "L'Argent" is both an historic visual document, showing the life and mentality of people in the late 1920s, and a powerful human story conveying the message of how money has power: power to corrupt, enslave, manipulate, control and destroy.
The actors were well chosen and suit their roles perfectly. German actors from "Metropolis" fame, Alfred Abel and Brigitte Helm, play unforgettable characters alongside prominent French stars who portray business tycoons riding the highs and lows of the share market to their own advantage, while others become pawns and victims of the lust for wealth and power. It is a good story made even more brilliant with lavish and unusual sets, artistic imagery and a very high standard of `glossy style'. The effort and cost involved in such a grand production are revealed in an extraordinary 40-minute "making of..." documentary on the supplement disc, "About L'Argent" - which was one of the first of its kind, and is surely a most valuable item for film historians especially, but also fascinating for the general viewer and admirer of early cinema. Another lengthy documentary is about L'Herbier and his work, and other varied and shorter film footage related to "L'Argent" make up the bonus disc features and help to appreciate the high artistic qualities of the film. Anyone looking for artistic style in films should see "L'Argent", and those who value the high quality of late 1920s silent films will not be disappointed either.