Pickpocket – Movie News | Film-News.co.uk


Robert Bresson (director)

IBF (studio)

PG (certificate)

76min (length)

July 11, 2022 (published)

2 d

French director Robert Bresson’s 1959 “minimalist” drama PICKPOCKET revolves around Michel, a young pickpocket operating in the greater Paris region whose own philosophy seems to justify his misdeeds. In the prelude we are told that “this film is not a thriller… but strives to express the nightmare of a young man whose weakness leads him to commit acts of theft which he was not intended to commit…”

Young drifter Michel (Martin LaSalle) is on a mission: he’d rather make a living pickpocketing than clocking in for an honest day’s work…maybe not because he’s a bad person (he doesn’t is not really) but because he is so absorbed in writing his diary and thinking about the meaning of life in his dilapidated Parisian home that the weather does not allow for a 9 to 5. Moreover , Michel is almost obsessed with a biography called “The Prince of Pickpockets” about the real pickpocket George Barrington (1755 – 1804) and therefore strives to follow in the footsteps of his hero. Really, why bother with a boring job as hell (respectable as it sounds) when you can make a reasonable living by freeing people from their possessions (in Michel’s case we’re usually talking about watches, wallets and purses) either on the subway or at the horse races?
The first quarter of the film introduces us to Michel’s strange little world as he goes about his “work”, interspersed only with rare dialogue or his own thoughts (as told by LaSalle). His social life (if you can call it that) is only sparse… the only friend he seems to have is a young man named Jacques (Pierre Leymarie) who, by the way, is on the straight and narrow. Then there’s Jeanne (Marika Green), an attractive young woman on a meager income who takes care of Michel’s (Dolly Scal) gravely ill mother. Jacques and Jeanne don’t really understand why Michel seems so reluctant to visit his sick mother, although it later emerges that in the past he even robbed her.

During one of Michel’s excursions into the world of pick-pocketing, he is caught but due to lack of evidence, the chief inspector (Jean Pélégri) and his assistant inspector (César Gattegno) have no other choice. than to let him go. That said, it’s not the last time Michel and the inspectors cross paths because both seem to frequent the same bar/bistro and as if it weren’t a coincidence, Jacques also has a drink in said bistro. – in fact, he seems on very friendly terms with the inspector and despairs of Michel’s constant refusals to seek suitable jobs (some of them hand-picked by Jacques). Meanwhile Jacques has started dating Jeanne and when the couple are out together they invite over Michel who – how should it be otherwise – can’t help it and pinches a passerby’s watch. Bored of playing gooseberry, he leaves the two lovebirds and decides to go for a drink at his local bistro when it turns out the inspector is also there, enjoying a drink or two. Still suspecting Michel, who has a rather careless habit of carrying his “bible” (yes, “The Prince of Pickpockets”) with him wherever he goes, the inspector demands that Michel show him the book before asking him to report with him to the police station on a specific date. Michel obliges, however, when he shows up at the police station, the inspector isn’t the least bit interested in the book… it’s only then that he realizes to Michel that the whole scenario was a set up by the police to get him out of his apartment so they could search him. Unable to find anything, including the stash of money he apparently stole from his mother, they have no choice but to let things go one more time.

Around the same time, Michel meets two professional pickpockets (Henri Kassagi and Pierre Étaix) who seem to handpick him – especially the main pickpocket (Kassagi) takes Michel under his wing and teaches him the tricks of the trade. with the result that Michel’s pickpocketing attempts become increasingly daring. Back in his apartment, he practices his finger dexterity, when socializing with his accomplice, the two men play pinball machines because it is also useful for improving their skills. Weeks pass and Michel is now almost at a level that would make George Barrington proud when his mother dies – there are only two other people at his funeral and they are Jacques and Jeanne. Gathering together his deceased mother’s few personal possessions such as old photographs and letters, Michel drifts into one of his philosophical moods and asks Jeanne if we will all be judged when we die. “Yes, but don’t be afraid for your mother, she was perfect” replies Jeanne. Michel then continues: “Judged how? According to which laws? It’s absurd!” Jeanne, on leaving because she has to find her sister, asks Michel if he doesn’t believe in anything. “I believed in God, Jeanne…for three minutes,” he explains to her before continue packing his mother’s things.

Feeling guilty for having neglected his mother during the last weeks of his life, Michel decides that it is high time for a change of scenery and, through voiceover, we learn that over the next few years, Michel is making his way into life and in various countries, including Italy and England. before being forced to return to Paris, having squandered his earnings on alcohol and women. He is somewhat surprised to find that Jeanne has since become a young mother but refused to marry the father, Jacques, as she never really loved him enough. Busy taking care of the baby but unable to work due to the situation she finds herself in, Michel promises to take care of both of them, of course his idea of ​​taking care of mother and child is to fly again. His luck finally runs out when he is finally caught stealing the wallet of a man who turns out to be an undercover cop! Finally in the slammer and with a happy chief inspector content to finally have his suspect, Jeanne promises to visit Michel (who has now fallen in love with her) in prison until the day he becomes a free man again.

Director Robert Bresson’s taciturn anti-hero Michel is played with great conviction by Uruguayan Martin LaSalle, although at the time of casting LaSalle (who would appear in ten more films after “Pickpocket”) hadn’t never played before when Bresson approached him. With his large, melancholy eyes and overall brooding expression, he proved to be a wise choice for the role. An equally inspired cast can be said of Michel’s “pickpocketing mentor” played by Henri Kassagi who, at the time of filming, was actually a professional pickpocket recruited by Bresson so he could teach LaSalle the ropes. . After appearing on screen, Kassagi changed careers to become a stage magician! As for Jeanne, her role was played with Marika Green (aunt of ‘Penny Dreadful’ actress Eva Green) who, at the time of filming, was also a complete novice when it came to acting. A cast that is all in all very inspired!

This 1959 b/w ​​drama was released on HD Blu-ray in an all-new restoration with the following bonus material:
Robert Bresson Q&A (1971, audio only, 47 min): / Director Paul Schrader on Pickpocket (2022, 11 min) / The Models of Pickpocket (2003, 52 min): documentary tracking down Pickpocket performers to discuss their experiences of work with Bresson / Short archive films: Thefts From Handbags (1961, 1 min) / Snatch of the Day (1975, 1 min) / Four Men in Prison (1950, 41 mins): controversial documentary-drama / Trailers / Illustrated booklet (first pressing only) .

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