Pickpocket (1959)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 16, 1959 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 75 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Loosely based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's classic novel Crime and Punishment, Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) examines the director's signature concerns with faith and redemption through the experience of a compulsive thief. Bresson's stylistic purity of head-on shots, expressively restrained mise-en-scène, gracefully precise editing, spare dialogue, and impassive non-actors captures the near-erotic charge that Michel gets out of his thievery and obliquely outlines the emotional core of his amoral morality. Bresson's taut, elliptical narrative never offers an easy explanation for Michel's fatalistic narcissism, yet Michel's carefully detailed pickpocketing techniques, and a bravura sequence in which Michel and two accomplices lift wallets on a train, reveal the thrill in getting away with a skillful crime. Although Martin LaSalle's face seems to reveal nothing, in keeping with Bresson's trademark insistence that his actors' faces express as little as possible, Michel's climactic salvation, as he accepts the human connection that he had assiduously denied, becomes all the more moving in its simplicity. Shown in competition at the 1960 Berlin Film Festival, Pickpocket was not released in the U.S. until 1963.