Pickpocket (1959)

The orchestration of an unlawful event requires a great deal of planning and co-ordination. Those involved are quite aware of law enforcement’s potential interception of their illegal activities. However, they venture regardless for the sake of greed, power, bravado, and the ultimate thrill of successfully tiptoeing around danger. These activities are quite varied, with shoplifting being one such pursuit. The theft conveyed in the 1959 Robert Bresson film “Pickpocket” mirrors such pristine organization, as well as carefully examining the central character’s motives and growing desire to become an “expert” in this field of crime.

Michel, played by Martin LaSalle, is a young male living in poverty in Paris. He is also quite obstinate in job propositions. As an amateur pickpocket, his successes are initially limited. Upon meeting more seasoned members of this trade, he is taught a multitude of means to obtain money and valuable items. The fruits of their labour are later displayed in highly crisp, choreographed sequences, whereby a variety of wallets and other prized items vanish from their proprietors. Michel’s personal relationships with close family, friends, and the police are also explored in this film. It is no surprise that initial query necessity turned obsession with theft has an influence on the integrity of these bonds.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post on “Au Hasard Balthazar”, Bresson’s magic ingredient is simplicity. A plethora of themes emerge from this quietly acted film, which delve into all emotions associated with any act for which society has great disdain. Suspicion, deception, addiction, and exploitation are all components of Michel’s facade and contrasting inner turmoil while navigating through his newly minted escapade. Furthermore, dialogue commenting on spirituality unfolds during the film, with one’s degree of adequacy and acceptance within the eyes of God taking centre stage. It is interesting to view Michel’s cold exterior yet internalization of this question contrast to the more demure and concerned Jeanne (Marika Green). He is aware of his potential future as well as current reality based on his choices. However, others may deride feelings associated with deceiving acts, either avoiding or highly engaging in spirituality or good deeds as a means of redemption. Overall, I feel that this film subtly reminds us of the possibilities that humans can embark on in their life journey, and the means by which they come to terms with the impact of their decisions on the lives of others.


I do not own the above image.


8 thoughts on “Pickpocket (1959)

  1. You’ve got a great taste in films to review, and I enjoy each and every one of your reviews. Not many people are even aware of these movies, and it is a shame, because they are so worth watching and being admired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words! I thoroughly enjoy your reviews and blog as well. I am such a huge fan of classic foreign cinema (especially Ingmar Bergman) because the directors didn’t have to follow the conventional rules of Hollywood. They were just free. As a result, some incredible, influential masterpieces arose!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! Yes, I do love Italian films. I need to write one on Umberto D. and some more Fellini films. When I first got into classic film, I hated the Italian neorealism movement. However, I really appreciate them now given the historical context and their reflections of humanity. Bicycle Thieves would be a good example methinks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean about the Italian neorealism. I think one needs time to get really into these films. I love Bicycle Thieves and Rome, Open City, but it would still take me some time to see and appreciate some lesser known ones.

        Liked by 1 person

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