Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pickpocket (1959)

Robert Bresson's famed drama is, more than anything, interested in the mechanics of things. Firstly, the film is preoccupied with the mechanics of thievery. Rather than being a film about a thief, this is a film about the work of a thief, and as such it's important that we see the evolution of that work. It's the process, the slow march towards improvement of the craft, that provides much of the drama and fascination (lots of close-ups of hands and whatnot). This surface preoccupation, though, simultaneously masks and parallels the deeper work of Bresson's narrative. Michel the pickpocket begins the film standing outside the system. He sees himself as being unbound by moral or spiritual laws (he even goes as far as citing the Ubermensch philosophy near the film's beginning). The story, then, unfolds as an escalating series of small occurances designed to bring about humility within Michel. We watch as, slowly, he's pushed towards personal improvement (social, moral and possibly spiritual). Martin La Salle's performance in the title role is probably one of the best non-pro performances you're ever likely to see, with his haunted eyes spelling out the tumultuous truth beneath his character's defiant exterior. This Bresson guy, he ain't half bad.

Grade: B+


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