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Michel takes up picking pockets as a hobby, and is arrested almost immediately, giving him the chance to reflect on the morality of crime. After his release, though, his mother dies, and he rejects the support of friends Jeanne and Jacques in favour of returning to pickpocketing (after taking lessons from an expert), because he realises that it's the only way he can express himself... Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
simple is as simple does, which includes stealing and living an isolated life
Robert Bresson's Pickpocket has many great moments, even as it didn't quite do it for me on a first viewing as a 'masterpiece (some have said to see it twice, perhaps I will). Bresson's use of the camera is often intoxicating in the most subdued of ways; at times it does take on the prowess of literature. But my only minor nitpick with the film is that it leaves a sort of cold viewing on a viewer, with such simplicity and emotions stripped from the character(s) that it's hard to connect. And yet, this is really made up tenfold with the sort of style that can be likely called Bressonian; straightforward angles, tense medium close-ups, serene editing, and little to no music.
Whatever it sets up for this actor to do, it sets up well. Indeed, the actor who plays the protagonist here is actually very good, aside from the disconnection, and provides an excellent way for us to get along his side. He is a decent person, but there are certain things that get to him, which is why he feels he must steal. At times I almost had a grin as he made some successful grabs, by himself or his cohorts. Was I rooting for him, or just pleased by the pay-off of Bresson's suspense? Maybe both; there is definitely one truly virtuoso sequence in the film, when the pickpockets go on the train.
Like A Man Escaped, the only other Bresson film I've seen, there is that sort of dissection, quietly and without really digging too deep, into what a man wants with his life, or doesn't want. While the hero has only one determination in Man Escaped, to get out, Pickpocket has a man who doesn't know what to do with himself, only coming to a genuine catharsis behind bars. I think I like Pickpocket a little more, but I may like it even more on another viewing.
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