Fr : version française / En: english version

mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment


Robert Bresson

Date : 1959
Length : 1h 13' - B&W
Edition : MK2

View this work in the Urban transportation exhibition

The work

"This is not a crime movie. In it the filmmaker tries to express, through images and sound, the nightmare of a young man led by his own weakness into pickpocketing, an activity that is out of character for him. Yet it is this that will bring together, by a bizarre route, two people who otherwise might never have met."
(pre-credits introduction to the film)

The 1959 film Pickpocket is based on a screenplay written by Robert Bresson himself: a young man decides to start stealing. He practices for a while and then steals from people in ever more dangerous circumstances. He is in a relationship with Jeanne, his mother's home helper, who tries to reason with him. He is arrested by a police inspector who understands his psychology but is then released due to lack of evidence. He leaves France to avoid falling into a life of crime. In the words of William Lee: "Pickpocket is a film of looks and gestures. Wallets pass from hand to hand in a veritable ballet. The scene at the station is utterly exhilarating. You feel the tension and at the same time the pleasure in pulling it off. A shiver of fear mixed with pleasure runs through you. The filmmaker offers us a rare sensory experience. Pickpocket is perhaps the film that best captures the pleasure that can be derived from stealing, from breaking the law."

The director

A French filmmaker born in 1901, Robert Bresson began his career as a painter and photographer. In 1934 he made the burlesque film Les affaires publiques which he later disowned and prohibited screening. During the war, he made two films, including Les dames du bois de Boulogne with Maria Casarès, with dialog by Jean Cocteau. Disappointed with the performance of the professional actors, from then on he was to work only with what he called "models"—people who had never acted before and who had no preconceived notions of what acting was about. He would shoot take after take until he was happy with the result. His pared-down style with virtually no camera movement, placing great emphasis (like Jacques Tati) on the soundtrack, was the result of what he himself called "cinematography", emphasizing the importance of a cinematographic style, as opposed to "cinema", which he saw merely as filmed theater.

His main films are: Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest), Un condamné à mort s'est échappé (A Man Escaped), Pickpocket, Au hasard, Balthazar (Balthazar), Mouchette and L'argent (Money), for which he was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1983, to booing from the audience. He died in 1999.