>Pickpocket (1959)


A man walks out of the room through the open door, into the hall and, presumably, out of the building. When he leaves the room his footsteps can still be heard echoing in the hall, but you do not follow him. You stay, staring at the open doorway, waiting. You are waiting for something, the next thing, a new image, action, gesture. You hear the sound of footsteps fading away. But you stay because you are the camera. Or is the camera is you? So you wait because the director controls you because the camera is you and the director decides to make you wait. Your waiting is only a second too long; just enough to make you sense a tension somewhere, but not enough for you to realize the plan behind that feeling. Now you are on to the next thing (an edit has shifted you) and you have forgotten the waiting, but the tension has left its ghost-image at the back of your mind.

That is the simple beauty of Bresson and his little film, Pickpocket.

2 thoughts on “>Pickpocket (1959)

  1. >Hmm, I really like the way you describe the film, but I never got into Pickpocket. In fact, after seeing both A Man Escaped and Pickpocket, I have yet to note what is transcendental about Bresson’s work (referencing Schrader’s Transcendental Style: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer). I agree that the style is simple, but I had a hard time finding either film compelling. Any pointers for viewing Bresson?

  2. >terabin -I don’t know if I ascribe to Schrader’s concept of transcendence, or his belief that Bresson was a transcendental/transcendent filmmaker ā€“ at least not in the same way (or to the same level) as someone like Tarkovsky. It’s been too long since I read Schrader. I see both Bresson and Tarkovsky as fundamentally existential in their themes, but Bresson has a kind of “rootedness” to the world (the here and now, this place, that place, this gesture, that gesture, etc.), whereas Tarkovsky secures his stories to the soul. This does not deny that Bresson was interested in the soul. He was, and certainly, to some degree, in Pickpocket.I could be wrong about the difference between Tarkovsky and Bresson. I probably am. Part of an interview with Charles Thomas Samuels from 1970 went like this:S: I think that many of your ideas are a consequence of your Christianity. Am I right in saying that you pursue mystery without worrying that the audience will be baffled because you believe that we all partake of one essential soul? B: Of course. Of course. S: So that every viewer is fundamentally the same viewer. B: Of course. What I am very pretentiously trying to capture is this essential soul, as you call it. S: Do you believe that there is anybody that does not partake in this essential soul for example, is an atheist outside your audience? B: No, he is not. Besides, there are no real atheists.Overall, though, I like Bresson for his ability to tell (in my opinion) powerful stories with a strict economy of means. He strips film down to its essence, what makes film film, and just gives us that.And, if you have only seen any of his films once, then you might want to consider another Bresson quote: “If there is something good in a film, one must see it at least twice. A film doesn’t give its best the first time.”Other than that, I don’t really have an answer.

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