Catch-Up: Pickpocket (1959)
I was in New York this past weekend, and had the good fortune to catch the Bresson retrospective at the Film Forum. The movie I saw was Pickpocket, a tale of crime, sin and sexual longing. Being such a full-fledged film dork, I’m slightly ashamed to admit this was the first Bresson film I’ve seen. But if I understand his legacy correctly, Pickpocket was in line with his other great works: deliberately paced, layered of morality, beautiful and slightly mysterious.
In the film, Michel (Martin LaSalle) starts stealing wallets and purses to support his existential lifestyle, which features lots of diary keeping and sick-mother-ignoring. He crushes on his mother’s neighbor, the painfully beautiful Jeanne. Soon, Michel learns the tricks of the trade from a more seasoned pickpocket, and Bresson stages some impressive action set pieces as multiple criminals grab, switch, distract and rob Parisians. Often, Michel is so close to his victims that they could practically kiss.
I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen this gem, but suffice to say that by the time Michel secures Jeanne’s love, it’s too late for him to really enjoy it. The film lingers in your mind, and begs for repeat viewings.