Pickpocket (Robert Bresson,1959): France

Reviewed by Robin Johansson at the AFI Film Festival, Hollywood.

Pickpocket is an all black and white movie directed by Robert Bresson. This film takes us to a gritty and dark environment in Paris, where you encounter the young man Michel (Martin La Salle) on a horse race track. Silence is sure enough gold in this particular scene, where he is carefully reaching for the wallet of the person in front of him.

Michel is living in a small room filled with books. He is a common guy who is always dressed up in a suit, why would he steal? He could probably get a job if he wanted to, so what is his motive, what justifies his actions? His close relations with the police are almost amusing, which makes me think that Michel doesn’t care if he would get caught, he does it for the thrill.

Later on you are introduced to Jeanne (Marika Green) who Michel meets visiting his mother. Jeanne believes in Michel, but he keeps letting her down with his inability to live as an honest man.

Watching this movie, I cannot help but to think about Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and it actually turns out that Pickpocket was inspired by that very book. I think it is a good movie, of course the cinematography and the sound could be better, but I’m usually more interested in character development and relations.

Pickpocket is however challenging to watch, because the characters don’t reflect that much of emotions, they’re usually cold and deliver their lines with a neutral tone. This may confuse many people and it makes me think of this movie more like a book that is read out loud, than a movie played by actors. Nevertheless I enjoy the way that it was performed, but I feel like I was left with empty spaces to fill out, and that didn’t bring a full closure to the movie.

I would recommend this movie, because it’s different and interesting to watch.

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