This incomparable story of crime and redemption from French master Robert Bresson follows Michel, a young pickpocket who spends his days working the streets, subway cars, and train stations of Paris. As his compulsive pursuit of the thrill of stealing grows, however, so does his fear that his luck is about to run out. A cornerstone in the career of this most economical and profoundly spiritual of filmmakers, 'Pickpocket' is an elegantly crafted, tautly choreographed study of humanity in all its mischief and grace, the work of a director at the height of his powers.
French director Robert Bresson is one of the finest filmmakers to ever come out of France. His peers and colleagues have praised him for many years and even the impressive Jean Luc Goddard said "Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music." People even say he is as good as Jean Renoir, and they aren't wrong. Bresson had a unique way and style of making movies, and they captivated audiences world wide and have won countless awards.
In 1959, he wrote his first original screenplay, instead of adapting other books, and he called it 'Pickpocket', which has been compared to and is said to be based on 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Bresson is a very spiritual filmmaker and while 'Pickpocket' might not be a story about religion, it definitely shows the faith and transformation in a man who wants to do good.
In a very early role for Martin LaSalle, he plays a young man named Michel who dreams of being a writer, but has to rely on stealing to make ends meet. Not only that, Michel loves the thrill of stealing and can't seem to get enough of that adrenaline. He heads to the racetrack and steals from some of the spectators there, only to be confronted by a police investigator shortly after. The police let him go due to a lack of evidence, and Michel quickly realizes he has much to learn about all aspects of being a professional thief.
He soon then meets another thief on the bus and the two hit it off very quickly. The other thief has much more discipline and skill than Michel and takes Michel under his wing and teaches him the art of stealing, which takes up a good chunk of the film. These scenes are a lot of fun to watch. Then a third thief (Pierre Etaix) joins them and the three begin to work together and they become very successful.
Meanwhile, Michel can't believe his luck and how much his skill has improved by meeting these people. However, his mother is very sick and being taken care of by a beautiful young girl named Jeanne (Marika Green). It's here where we see Michel trying to figure out if he wants to still lead a life of crime or be a more sensible and caring man. Although he gives money to Jeanne to take care of his mother, he doesn't want to be with her.
And Bresson leaves it up to us to figure out if Michel just doesn't want to see his mother that way or if he indeed just wants to live the life of crime, no matter her how she or Jeanne feels about him.Unfortunately, Michel's two thief friends are arrested, which forces Michel to leave town for a while. He heads to Milan, Rome, and London, where he scores big in each place, but ends up spending all the money in casinos and brothels. After two years of this, he decides to come back home and try to pick up the pieces of his life with the people he once knew.
Most of the actors here are newcomers, and the way Bresson shot the film, leaves the character's intentions and thoughts up to our interpretation. The characters only speak when it is absolutely necessary, and they tell the story largely with their expressions and body language, and it has a profound effect on the lasting impression that 'Pickpocket' aims to convey. Every shot in the film is perfectly crafted and there is a point and reason to every action and transition in the movie.
Ultimately, Bresson wanted to tell a story about a man who he seems like a decent guy, but makes some poor choices along the way, and realizes he can be redeemed in the end. 'Pickpocket' tells this story flawlessly.
'Pickpocket' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.37:1 aspect ratio from Criterion. According to Criterion, this is a new digital transfer and was created in 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative in Paris, France and was supervised by Mylene Bresson. The image is simply outstanding and is definitely an improvement on the DVD release from Criterion. The picture as a whole looks very clean and pristine, even more so than on the DVD release.
The detail is much more vivid and substantial, as you'll be able to notice more intimate details on the actor's faces and in their costumes. Even the wider shots look great here and it gives a sense of depth to the image. There were some minor instances with the sharpness, but it's nothing to write home about. The black and white image looks amazing with well balanced blacks, whites, and grays at all times. Criterion removed all of the debris and dirt from the print, giving this film an excellent clean look. This is the best 'Pickpocket' has looked thus far.
This release comes with a good French LPCM 1.0 audio track with great English subtitles. I get why Criterion keeps the original sound design from each of their movies, but I would love the extra option to have something in 5.1, to fully immerse me in whatever is happening on screen. That being said, this audio track is done very nicely.
The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow with the subtitles. It has some good depth to it as well and is free of any pops, cracks, or hissing throughout. The music is lively and robust, and always adds to the tone of the film. However, the dynamic intensity is fairly low. Sure, you'll be able to hear some of the city sounds such as a passing car or people chattering, but it doesn't have that extra liveliness that it deserves. Other than that small personal complaint, this mono audio track is top notch.
Audio Commentary - This commentary track is from the DVD version and features the senior programmer at TIFF Cinematheque James Quandt, discussing the making of 'Pickpocket' and Robert Bresson's life and career. It's an excellent and informative commentary track.
Introduction (HD, 15 mins.) - Filmmaker Paul Schrader introduces 'Pickpocket' here and tells us why it's such an important and influential film.
The Models of 'Pickpocket' (HD, 53 mins.) - Here is a documentary where three of the actors from 'Pickpocket' talk about making the film on all levels. The director of the documentary even travels to meet up with Martin LaSalle to talk about his work on the movie and his collaboration with Bresson.
Cinepanorama (HD, 7 mins.) - Here is an excerpt from the 1960 television program 'Cinepanorama', where it has director Robert Bresson talking about 'Pickpocket' and how he thinks his audience should view it.
Q&A (HD, 13 mins.) - This Q&A was filmed in 2000 with Marika Green and a few other filmmakers in attendance as they discussed 'Pickpocket' and Bresson's directing style.
Kassagi (HD, 12 mins.) - This is an awesome extra, which shows an excerpt from a clip of the show 'La piste aux etoiles', that featured the special guest, Kassagi. Kassagi played the thief that showed Michel how to be a better pickpocket. Kassagi is a sleight-of-hand artist and served as a consultant too on the film. You also get to see his trickery performed here too.
Trailer (HD, 3 mins.) - The original trailer for the film.
Criterion Booklet - Here is short booklet that gives you information on the technical aspects of the film, the cast and crew info, and an essay on 'Pickpocket' by film critic Gary Indiana.
'Pickpocket' is a wonderful, perfectly-executed film. The camerawork is brilliant, the performances are top notch, and the story is very moving. It's a great example of seeing somebody learn the hard way to take the right path in life. The new video and audio presentations are both top notch, and the wealth of extras more than satisfies. This title is definitely worth the upgrade and is highly recommended!