Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Written and directed by Robert Bresson, Pickpocket is the story about a young pickpocket who surrounds himself in various locations in Paris as he starts to feel guilty as he begins to fear that his luck will run out. The film is an exploration into a young man’s struggle to survive as well as trying to find ways to redeem himself. Starring Martin LaSalle, Marika Green, Pierre Leymarie, Dolly Scal, and Jean Pelegri. Pickpocket is a mesmerizing yet engrossing drama from Robert Bresson.

The film is essentially the story of a young pickpocket named Michel (Martin LaSalle) who is conflicted about stealing as he’s afraid of being caught. With the help of other pickpockets he meets, he eventually masters his craft as he joins them in stealing where they would split the take. Still, Michel is a young man who is unsure about what he’s doing as his friend Jacques (Pierre Leymarie) is suspicious as is a police investigator (Jean Pelegri) who knows he can catch him but wants Michel to turn himself in. Adding to these complications is a young woman named Jeanne (Marika Green) who has been taking care of his mother (Dolly Scal) who is very ill. Michel finds himself falling for Jeanne but become more confused about what he’s doing as he tries to redeem himself while dealing with other temptations.

Robert Bresson’s screenplay doesn’t carry a lot of plot as it’s more reflective in its narrative told largely from Michel’s perspective as he’s narrating the film throughout where he’s writing a journal about his thefts. In this narration, Michel reveals the sense of fear he’s feeling about getting caught and the guilt that he’s dealing with in stealing. Yet, there’s also a side of him that feels content for the fact that he’s mastering his craft and finding some sort of satisfaction in what he’s doing. This presentation of a protagonist is very unique for the fact that he’s very flawed while seemingly unsure about seeing his ailing mother as he starts to fall for a young woman who is dating a friend of his. It adds to his development as he is someone very secretive and not willing to divulge very much as he gets the attention of a police investigator who is more interested in seeing this young man find redemption than get himself into a lot of trouble.

Bresson’s direction is very intimate in its presentation where he keeps things very simple in terms of shooting on location and not creating a lot of big moments. Bresson utilizes the frame to reveal very little in big settings such as a horse racetrack, a diner, and other locations but always maintain that intimacy in order to focus largely on Michel’s exploits. Notably in his pickpocket schemes where Bresson maintains an intensity into the choreography into how an object is stolen and then passed on from one person to another in an elaborate scheme that is just hypnotic to watch. Bresson also focuses largely on the hands to reveal how a pickpocket steals where he keeps his camera close enough to reveal the action.

The direction is also suspenseful in the way Bresson presents every moment in how Michel tries to steal where he also reveals a moment of hesitation that occurs. Bresson takes his time to reveal Michel’s conflict and the moment he could act in his desperation or just walk away. While whatever the outcome maybe, what is revealed afterwards is what Michel is feeling where Bresson always have the camera on him or the person he had just stolen from. The film’s third act reveals a lot of what Michel has gone through and the desperation he takes just to help a friend. Yet, its outcome isn’t surprising but Michel seems aware of his actions and know what he’s facing. In the end, Bresson creates a captivating yet touching portrait of a young man lost in his own world and trying to find some semblance of hope.

Cinematographer Leonce-Henri Burel does excellent work with the black-and-white photography to maintain that intimacy in many of the film‘s daytime interior and exterior settings with more stylish lights for some of its nighttime scenes. Editor Raymond Lamy does brilliant work with the editing to create some methodical cuts to play with the film‘s suspense along with more slower cuts for its dramatic moments. Production designer Pierre Charbonnier does nice work with the film’s few set pieces such as the apartment that Michel lives in to the apartment that his mother lives in.

The film’s sound by Antoine Archimbaud is superb for the atmosphere it carries in many of the film‘s on-location scenes to capture the chaos that is happening along with more intimate moments involving Michel. The film’s music consists of pieces from the opera Atys by Jean-Baptiste Lully that appears in few moments of the film to help underplay the drama that is unfolding for Michel.

The film’s small ensemble cast is terrific as it features some notable small performances as Pierre Etaix and Henri Kassagi as Michel’s accomplices and Dolly Scal as Michel’s ailing mother. Pierre Leymarie is excellent as Michel’s friend Jacques who helps Michel to try and find real jobs while questioning him about what he’s doing. Jean Pelegri is superb as the sympathetic police investigator who is aware about Michel’s antics, despite little evidence, as he tries to steer Michel into the right path. Marika Green is wonderful as Jeanne who is baffled by Michel’s quiet persona as well as the fact that she’s the only other person who can turn him away from a life of thieving. Finally, there’s Martin LaSalle as Michel where LaSalle gives a great performance as a conflicted young man dealing with his schemes as well as the fear of getting caught as it’s a mesmerizing performance from LaSalle.

Pickpocket is a marvelous film from Robert Bresson that explores the world of theft and the conflicts that concerts a young thief. The film is very compelling character study that explore a young man reflecting on his actions and the fears that he has in being a thief. It’s also a very intimate story that revels in the way youth deals with a lack of direction as well as uncertainty. In the end, Pickpocket is an extraordinary film from Robert Bresson.

Robert Bresson: (Les affaires publique) - (Les Agnes du peche) - Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne - Diary of a Country Priest - A Man Escaped - The Trial of Joan of Arc - Au Hasard Balthazar - Mouchette - (A Gentle Woman) - (Four Nights a Dreamer) - (Lancelot du Lac) - (The Devil Probably) - L’Argent

© thevoid99 2012

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