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Directed by Robert Bresson
Produced in 1959
Main Language - FRENCH with English subtitles
Released in 1959 at the dawn of the French New Wave, Robert Bresson’s fifth feature, Pickpocket, established a link between the masterworks of the past and the cinema of the future. Conceived and shot in a matter of weeks, the film’s use of real Parisian locations (streets, cafés, depots) and subversion of traditional dramatic techniques helped set the tone for a new era of film experimentation.
Loosely based on Dostoevky’s Crime and Punishment, Bresson’s compressed narrative offers an incisive portrait of a troubled urban recluse, Michel, whose compulsion to steal propels him on an unexpected personal journey. As in Diary of a Country Priest (1951) and A Man Escaped (1957), Bresson records his protagonist’s narration, thus revealing Michel’s ambiguous feelings in a world of relentless physical precision, timing and ritual. A sequence depicting thefts at the Gare de Lyon is a veritable ballet of secret movements and gestures, its aesthetic pleasure emphasizing the intrinsically seductive appeal of Michel’s thievery as well as the practice and dexterity required.
Throughout the film however, a police inspector seems as interested in counselling Michel as he is in arresting him. Their sporadic conversations are spiked with suggestions - Michel claims certain individuals should be above the law; the inspector counters that an arrest could be made at any time, but teasingly hesitates.
Pickpocket is a shining example of Bresson’s fully mature, essentialist style. Nonprofessional actors, eye-level compositions, and an emphasis on sound combine with a perplexing approach to narrative construction (unexplained reversals and ellipses) that creates a carefully modulated viewing experience. Rigorous and subdued yet deeply felt, the film is a surprisingly romantic vision that builds to a profound crescendo, transforming Michel’s search for identity into a passionate proclamation of love.
An undisputed masterpiece of cinema from Robert Bresson in which a young man is driven by his self-destructive compulsion for petty thievery. He abandons his studies in order to perfect his technique but draws the attention of both a police inspector and a professional thief.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 73 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 25th April 2005
Cat No: ART295DVD
- Interview with Robert Bresson
- The models for Pickpocket - interviews with Martin Lassalle, Marika Green and Piere Leymarie
- Around Pickpocket - discussions with Marika Green, Jean-Pierre Ameris and Paul Vecchialli
- Kassagi cabaret performance
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