Plot: What’s it about?
Michel (Martin Lassalle) is unremarkable in appearance. His looks do not stand out at all, no one could remember his face if they just passed by. In fact, if you passed Michel on the street, you wouldn’t even notice him or give him a second look. This could be considered a negative for some people, but for Michel, it serves to help him in his new profession. He could work a normal job, but he thinks he is above such menial work and he also thinks he is above the people who do so. In order to support himself, he will become a thief and thanks to his plain appearance, a pickpocket is the ideal role. He steals to make ends meet, but he also steals for an almost sexual purpose, a release when he triumphs over “lesser” people. But he also makes some risky decisions, as if he wants to be caught and punished. In the end, will he be controlled by his compulsions and if so, will the punishment he seems to seek out be served?
If you’re fan of fast hands, then you need to see this movie. Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket is an insightful look inside the world of small time crime. Not in a broad sense, but the impact the crime can have, not so much on the victim, but on the criminal himself. Pickpocket takes us inside the mind of such a criminal, to see why he steals, what drives him to continue, and how he can justify such actions. In the hands of a director like Bresson, this makes for an excellent motion picture. This is a clinic on his style, his approach is direct and does not try to be flashy, we see what needs to be seen. There is tension and of course emotion, but Bressons controls these elements with masterful skill, as always. If nothing else, the movie stands out thanks to the theft scenes, which are expertly and realistically choreographed. I give Pickpocket a high recommendation and Criterion’s treatment is top notch, so don’t let this release slip through your fingers.
Video: How does it look?
Pickpocket is presented in full frame, as intended. I am very pleased with this presentation on the whole, though some minor flaws do surface. A few scenes show some edge enhancement and while it isn’t extreme, it should be mentioned in this review. The source print looks clean throughout, with only minimal specks and other issues present. A couple scenes look below the standard of the others, but in the end, this is a very nice visual transfer. I saw no problems with the contrast either, which ensures this black & white image looks well detailed and sharp at all times. This is a very nice effort here and while a few small spots could be better, I don’t think anyone will be let down here.
Audio: How does it sound?
This film is presented with the original French mono track, and of course they’ve supplied English subtitles. Since this is mono, you won’t find much power anywhere, but it takes of this movie. This film is dialogue driven so the audio punch isn’t needed in truth and this mix supplies clean and distinct vocals. It might be in a language I don’t speak, but I know clarity when I hear it. Any music and effects remain in the background, where they belong in this mix.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The audio commentary from film scholar James Quandt is passable, but like any outside account, relies on mostly already known facts. A director or star can reveal inside accounts, but someone like Quandt can only research and provide what he discovers. But he is well prepared and while a little dry, he does offer some good information about the film, the stars, and Bresson himself. The Models of Pickpocket is a documentary that features some of the stars of Pickpocket. I didn’t find much insight at this piece, but it runs just an under and has some decent interviews. This disc also includes footage of ace pickpocket Kassagi, an interview with Bresson, the Q&A session from a 2000 screening, and the film’s theatrical trailer.