Starring: Martin LaSalle, Marika Green, Pierre Leymarie
Director: Robert Bresson
Running Time: 76 mins
Pickpocket is a French film about a man who resorts to a life of pickpocketing after the death of his mother leaves with no way out of deep poverty.
Although it is noted as a classic, and is one of legendary director Robert Bresson’s first big hitters, I really struggled with Pickpocket. On the one hand, it works a stark portrayl of poverty and how it leads to crime, yet it’s a film that never really manages to define itself, languishing about with a good premise that doesn’t have enough depth or development at any point.
Before we get into that, however, I will say that the film does a fantastic job at portraying a genuine struggle to escape from poverty – by any means necessary. The film’s starkly lit black-and-white cinematography works strongly in tandem with its quiet and slow atmosphere, all creating a rather strong and powerful sense of darkness that emphasises the struggle that our main man is facing.
In that, there are moments that the film provides real intrigue and drama, and although it doesn’t quite match the intensity of the likes of Vivre Sa Vie in its portrayal of that central theme, it can still prove an engaging watch when it’s fully focused on that core idea.
However, my biggest problem with Pickpocket is that, away from its main premise, there isn’t really enough to keep you fully engrossed right the way through. Its slow and quiet vibes may work well to reinforce the dark nature of its central theme, but they also work against the film as, along with a story that’s not all too keen to really give you strong character development throughout, things do get a little boring rather rapidly.
While we do see Martin LaSalle’s character encounter new people and obstacles that see his character change to a degree over the course of the film, I really found the overall story arc frustrating to follow, with little real dramatic change throughout to match the stronger intrigue of the main theme, further frustrated by the fact that the split of focus about halfway through the film dampens both the crime and the emotional sides of the story.
Overall, I thought Pickpocket was a bit of a disappointment. I know Bresson has managed to do a lot with his style in other films – see Au Hasard Balthasar for a prime example – but this film really didn’t have enough depth or intrigue to allow me to fully engross myself, only serving as a good overview of a social struggle many people face, which is why I’m giving it a 6.0.