PICKPOCKET

This examination of the method and morality of a pickpocket on the streets of Paris marked a refinement of Robert Bresson’s spare, unsentimental aesthetic.

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Cast & Credits

Introduction

“The camera uses close-ups of hands, wallets, pockets, and faces in a perfectly timed ballet of images that explains, like a documentary, how pickpockets work.”
Roger Ebert, The Great Movies, 2002

From a clergyman in Diary of a Country Priest (1950) and a prisoner-of-war in A Man Escaped (1955), director Robert Bresson chose a pickpocket for his next study of man’s salvation and transcendence.

Partially inspired by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, this short but intensely concentrated film is representative of Bresson’s distinctive minimalistic approach, in which action is stripped down to its fundamentals. Though formally austere, the burglary scenes – in which hands slip around bodies and into pockets with a near-erotic sensuousness – acquire a thrilling tension from the clockwork rhythm of Bresson’s editing.

Making his screen debut as the thief, Martin La Salle is typical of the non-professionals that the director regularly insisted upon for his films.

Pickpocket has been a defining influence on the work of director Paul Schrader, beginning with his screenplay for Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976).

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