1959 | Drama | In French with English subtitles | 75 minutes
Michel’s first taste as a thief occurs at a racetrack. He steals money from a spectator but is caught. The police release him for lack of evidence. Michel is an exceptionally intelligent person who probably could land a well-paying job. However, he opts for the easier life of being a thief. He hooks up with an experienced pickpocketing group and as a team they are very successful. Between jobs, Michel visits his elderly and infirm mother who is being cared for by the caring, lovely neighbor Jeanne. Michel meets Jeanne on one of his visits and they connect. He feels close to her. Michel’s mother dies and he attends the funeral with Jeanne. The police inspector informs Michel that money was stolen from his mother. Michel is the main suspect. He runs off to Milan, Rome, and London, successfully practicing his craft. He returns to Paris to find out that while he was away Jeanne had a baby. Michel’s best friend, Jacques, is the father. Deeply hurt, Michel goes to the race track and pickpockets a wealthy bettor. This time he’s caught red handed and now must serve time in jail. Jeanne visits him. They reach out to each other through the gated barrier. A combination of redemption and love is the road Michel would now like to pursue.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 97%
- Berlin International Film Festival: Nominated, Golden Bear Award for Best Film
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The nimble crime of the fiercely philosophical outlaw is itself a work of art, which Robert Bresson reveals, in all its varieties, as a furtive street ballet. The movie, above all, affirms the miracle of redemptive love and its price in humility and unconditional surrender.
In this story you may sense echoes of Dostoyevsky’s CRIME and PUNISHMENT, another story about a lonely intellectual who lived in a garret and thought he had a license, denied to common men, to commit crimes. The reasoning is immoral, but the characters claim special privileges above and beyond common morality.
There is no doubt that Bresson is a great filmmaker, and the PICKPOCKET is one of his masterworks. It is, at base, about self-fulfillment and redemption through love—a common enough idea in films. But this epic has seldom been equaled as a philosophical treatise on the subject.
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