Robert Bresson's "Pickpocket"
January 6, 2012 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Both an ingeniously choreographed crime film and a moral drama influenced by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Pickpocket marks the apotheosis of Bresson's stripped-down style. There’s little or no psychological realism or conventional drama at work in Martin La Salle’s portrayal of a master thief who plies his trade at the Gare de Lyon and easily outwits the cops who seek to ensnare him. See it once to appreciate the spare elegance of the pickpocketing scenes, and then a second time to appreciate how subtly Bresson accomplishes the story of a man’s self-willed corruption, his liberation through imprisonment and his redemption through love, all in less than 80 minutes.*

This winter and spring, North American viewers get an exceedingly rare opportunity to see Bresson's films projected on the big screen, in a near-complete retrospective that opens this week in New York and will move on to many other cities.
posted by Trurl (11 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I love "Pickpocket".
posted by Songdog at 8:29 PM on January 6, 2012

Bresson's «Notes sur le cinématographe» is well worth reading if you want to know more about the quite idiosyncratic yet entirely rigourous aesthetic régime he employed that make his films like no other.
posted by Wolof at 9:23 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Failing that, this essay (in English! short!) is pertinent.
posted by Wolof at 9:32 PM on January 6, 2012

The most exciting thing about this is that The Devil, Probably and L'Argent (and possibly others, but I'm most excited about those two), which disappeared from distribution on both 35mm and video when New Yorker Films had to dissolve their assets a couple of years ago, will be screening again!

Au hasard Balthazar, Pickpocket, and the other "big" Bresson films are and have been available on 35mm from Rialto and Janus, and have screened as frequently as any other classic foreign film in cities with art houses. Calling screenings of those films "rare" isn't accurate, nor fair to the distributors who've kept them accessible to film programmers all this time. (Not that you shouldn't go see them, because holy moly are they great).

But the presence of Devil and L'Argent really is important, and a testament to the good work of the programmers who organized this touring series. If you are in a city where you can see them, do it! You might not have another chance for awhile, unless you go to France (where these particular prints are visiting from).

Here is a list of at least some of the cities where the retrospective is going.

Also, here is Richard Hell on how punk rock The Devil, Probably is.
posted by bubukaba at 9:57 PM on January 6, 2012 [8 favorites]

L'Argent is one of the most terrifying films ever made.
posted by Wolof at 12:17 AM on January 7, 2012

I hope I am not the only confused person who thought this was about Luc Besson.
posted by Forktine at 6:39 AM on January 7, 2012

Only in the sense that you're confusing a shallow idiot with a genius. I suppose it's minor in the scheme of things.
posted by Wolof at 6:46 AM on January 7, 2012

That's a really mean thing to say about Bresson.
posted by Forktine at 6:53 AM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have seen Au Hasard Balthazar in two cinema classes.

It's a great movie, one I hope never to see again.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:37 AM on January 7, 2012

I've never seen that Pickpocket sequence before. It's lovely, I particularly like this moment in French cinema where the sound is so spare in high tension scenes, no music, no dialog, just the sounds of the delicate action. See also Rififi's amazing heist scene.

The camerawork in the Gare de Lyon scene seems almost erotic, the way it fixates on the objects.
posted by Nelson at 7:57 AM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Very cool!
posted by Area Control at 9:34 AM on January 7, 2012

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