Robert Bresson’s revolutionary character study, Pickpocket, is one of the prolific director’s best films, and in turn, one of the greatest films in history. This dark and visceral drama is a study of humanity and self-expression.
Pickpocket begins with one of many narrative scenes that include an emphasized “triple” narrative structure. Michel (Martin LaSalle) details an event in his journal that the audience reads, while he vocally narrates the writing; Bresson then cuts to the scene that Michel described, and the audience watches the action take place. In utilizing this complex structure, Bresson is able to accentuate these pivotal moments in a natural way, and allow the story to retain its fluidity. The story of Pickpocket follows Michel on his quest for self discovery on the fringes of mid-twentieth-century France. Michel is a competent and talented young man, yet his ego does not allow him to participate in the various mundane employment opportunities that surround him. In his first journal entry, we see Michel getting arrested for stealing money at a horse race. This begins his descent into the world of pickpocketing, and his eventual partnership with a fellow “craftsman”. Although Michel has the support of friends, he refuses their advice, and continues on his quest for meaning. He constantly trains to become a more capable thief; testing methods of pulling wallets out of his hung-up jacket, or taking a wristwatch off the leg of a table. Michel shows that when he is able to concentrate on something, perhaps for the first time in his life, that he can actually succeed and excel in it.