Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pickpocket - Movie Review

With the delightful prospect of watching the 'Black Swan' and 'The King's Speech' coming up over the weekend and sometime soon I tried to watch a DVD 'Pickpocket' that has been with me for a while. Part of Sagar's collection, it is a French movie and I was somehow not able to figure out how to get the subtitles working. Yesterday  it all fell into place.

'Pickpocket' is a 1959 film made by Robert Bresson. It is about a pickpocket Michel who is almost compulsive in his desire to pickpockets, con people of their money and belongings. The camera moves beautifully and unobtrusively as the pickpocket is shown stealing from a lady's purse at the race course. He is next shown being hauled away to the police station and then let off for insufficient evidence. An ailing mother he does not wish to meet, a friend Jacques who tries to help him out and a pretty young single mother who is his mother's neighbour are the other people in his life apart from the police inspector of course. A lonely man who also likes to read, the pickpocket practices his art by himself, tries different techniques and places, gets caught every once in a while and gets away until one day he is found by a professional pickpocket who teaches him all the tricks of the trade. In the company of the experts he grows more and more audacious and steals from all over, compulsively, even while on an outing with his friends. But he is plagued by doubt that they know what he is doing, that they pity him and do not tell him.

His mother dies and he visits her before her death. She appears to forgive him and tells him he can do what he wants to do when he really wants to. Jeanne is left with a baby from a man who runs off with her sister and Michel and she grow close together. Michel somehow feels that the police are closing in on him and flees France to go to Italy and England where he works honestly. he returns after a couple of years, meets Jeanne and promises he well take care of the child, is slowly drawn back into the world of pickpocketing again. He is caught and put in jail where Jeanne comes to meet him.

The 'Pickpocket' shows the compulsive nature of a pickpocket ho does it not for survival but because he is drawn to it, almost as if he was made for it. There is a dialogue by the policeman who says to him that "even if he were the most skillful pickpocket he would not advance the cause of humanity'. But Michel's sole aim seems to be the pursuit of excellence in his chosen profession, his chosen life. Lonely, stalking, seeking out victims, planning and plotting. Brilliantly captured too as we are almost keeping pace with the pickpocket in his hurried and stealthy life. Recommended if you get a chance to see it. One cannot but appreciate the work done by these filmmakers in that era, aided by a mere idea, a thought and how well they went about bringing it on screen with all its subtleties involved.

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