Pickpocket (Bresson, 1959)

Pickpocket is my first Bresson (and I’m certainly not alone in that camp), and though the sheer austerity of his style takes a bit of getting used to, in the end I understand why so many historians deeply admire it—if not love it outright. The psychological import of this tale about a man obsessed with petty theft is completely ingrained in the aesthetic, from the absolute tightness of Bresson’s camerawork, to the heightened squeak of everyone’s footsteps as they go about their daily lives. But Michel the pickpocket’s footsteps somehow ring the loudest, much as how his eyes never lost their penetrating quality. Bresson masterfully foregrounds this otherwise inconspicuous man, mercilessly probing the fabric of his being to the point where we cannot but be enraptured by his exploits. And man, does Bresson shoot the hell out of those exploits. The various ways wallets are pinched are portrayed as artistically as a ballet, and one could watch them on repeat without ever completely comprehending the intricacies of the dance.

The only thing I didn’t really care for was the ending. It somehow feels too neat and tidy, and doesn’t work as a last-minute effort to make Michel relatable/likeable. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was let down. Yet, as my introduction to Bresson’s auteurism, it lived up to expectations, and I can’t wait to get into his other films.