Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blind Spot: Pickpocket (1959)


Directed by Robert Bresson
Produced by Agnès Delahaie
Written by Robert Bresson
Starring Martin LaSalle, Marika Green, John Pélégri, and Pierre Leymarie

Plot Summary: Michel (LaSalle) turns to pickpocketing to amuse himself, but he attracts the eye of a police inspector (Pélégri) in the process.

Significance: Bresson's film was recently named one of the 100 best French films by Time Out (Paris). Loosely based on Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, it has influenced a number of filmmakers, especially Paul Schrader (director of American Gigolo and writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull). Also, it was featured in the 2012 Sight & Sound Poll, garnering 11 directors' votes and 24 critics' ones. 

Thoughts: It's my first Bresson film, and I love his direct style, combined with the tight construction. At 75 minutes, it never lags, and the tension slowly builds as Michel is in danger of being caught by the police. Martin LaSalle wasn't a professional actor at the time (as was common in Bresson's films), but he and the rest of the cast do just what the material asks for. With its style, depiction of crime, scant running time, and reliance on non-professional actors, it actually has a lot in common with Christopher Nolan's Following (1998), except for Nolan's nonlinear narrative. If you're looking to break into French cinema or Bresson's work, I'd suggest giving this a look.

Rating: ****

This is the fourth film in my 2013 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil.


  1. I saw this film last year and was just blown away. So far, I've seen 5 Bresson films in Mouchette, this one, The Trial of Joan of Arc, A Man Escaped, and Diary of a Country Priest. I hope to see everything else and do an Auteurs piece on Bresson real soon.

    1. I really need to see more of his work, but he only directed 13 features. For some reason, I expected his filmography to be the size of Godard's. Only 12 films to go...