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.


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Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

The expedition that individuals take throughout the course of their time on Earth can be quite diverse, and is dependent on a conglomerate of factors. Some roads travelled are directly under our authority whereas others are powered by elements beyond our control. The ratio between the level of autonomy versus dominance in a life journey is also influenced by many components, with gender, employment, family dynamics, and socioeconomic status being examples. The life course of pets and animals in service are almost completely controlled by humans. This may paradoxically lead them to travel haphazardly through life from one owner to the next, blindly following commands. The beautifully constructed 1966 Robert Bresson film “Au Hasard Balthazar” explores the random yet stifling journey of an innocent donkey with the aforementioned name.

As a young colt, Balthazar is treasured by two young children in the local village with a cute, budding romance named Jacques and Marie. Jacques’ family moves abruptly during his childhood, and their farm is entrusted to Marie’s family, including the care of sweet Balthazar. The film then flash forwards years later, and we begin following the donkey throughout his life course under multiple ownerships. The affection and bond both he and Marie share anchors the film’s trajectory, but the darker aspects of human nature weave through the narrative.

Bresson’s understated style involved the creation of richness in stories through simplicity in the film’s surroundings as well as through acting. It is through this approach that themes of innocence and exploitation emerge, paralleling the lives of Marie and her beloved Balthazar. Both are quite naive about the surrounding world, being manipulated by ignorant and arrogant humans for their own benefit. It is an important reminder that oppression of many creatures, including humans, in seemingly lower positions of power occurs quite regularly. All natural environments and those living within them deserve to be treated with care and respect, and it is an injustice to our true potential as citizens of the Earth when this responsibility is abused. 1421445154-auhasard

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