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Pickpocket (film): Wikis


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Directed by Robert Bresson
Produced by Agnès Delahaie
Written by Robert Bresson
Starring Martin LaSalle
Marika Green
Jean Pélégri
Pierre Leymarie
Dolly Scal
Henri Kassagi
Release date(s) December, 1959
Running time 76 min
Language French

Pickpocket is a 1959 film by the French director Robert Bresson. It starred, at the time, nonprofessional actor Martin LaSalle in the title role, with Marika Green as the ingénue. It was the first film Bresson wrote the screenplay for rather than "adapting it from an existing text."[1]

As in Diary of a Country Priest, some screen time is devoted to the protagonist's writings, and, as in A Man Escaped, the protagonist's voice is heard more in the voiceover than in dialogue.



Michel (Martin LaSalle) goes to a horse race and steals some money from a spectator. He leaves the racetrack confident he was not caught when he's suddenly arrested. The inspector (Jean Pélégri) releases Michel because the evidence is not strong enough; Michel says it's not a crime to have cash.

Michel continues stealing, refusing his friend Jacques's help in finding a job. Jacques even arranges a meeting with the police inspector, in which Michel presents a theory about "supermen" who are above the law (this Nietzsche -like conversation is lifted almost verbatim in American Gigolo ). Jacques is dismayed, and Michel is undeterred from his thievery. Eventually, he meets a more experienced thief (Henri Kassagi), who teaches him several tricks, including those involving more than one person.

Visiting his mother, Michel meets Jeanne (Marika Green) who begs him to visit his mother more often. Jacques goes on a date with Jeanne and invites Michel along. But after stealing a watch, Michel leaves Jacques and Jeanne at the carnival. The inspector asks Michel to show him a book about pickpocketing, and Michel goes down to the police station with it. Once there, the inspector barely glances at the book. Michel goes back to his apartment realizing that it was all just a ruse to search his apartment. However, the cops failed to find his stash of money.

Michel's mother dies, and he goes to the funeral with Jeanne. Later, the inspector visits Michel in his apartment, and tells him that his mother had had some money stolen, but later dropped the charges, probably figuring it was her son who stole the money. The inspector then just leaves, and Michel decides to leave the country.

Returning to France, Michel goes back to steal at the horse track, where he is caught redhanded by the police. Jeanne goes to visit him in jail.


  • Martin LaSalle - Michel
  • Marika Green - Jeanne
  • Jean Pélégri - Chief Inspector
  • Dolly Scal - The Mother
  • Pierre Leymarie - Jacques
  • Kassagi - 1st Accomplice
  • Pierre Étaix - 2nd Accomplice
  • César Gattegno - An Inspector

Scholarly and critical reception

The film is considered an example of "parametric narration"[2] (in which the style "dominates the syuzhet [plot] or is seemingly equal in importance to it"[3].

Roger Ebert sees echoes of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment in this film. "Bresson's Michel, like Dostoyevsky's hero Raskolnikov, needs money in order to realize his dreams, and sees no reason why some lackluster ordinary person should not be forced to supply it. The reasoning is immoral, but the characters claim special privileges above and beyond common morality. Michel, like the hero of Crime and Punishment, has a 'good woman' in his life, who trusts he will be able to redeem himself. ... She comes to Michel with the news that his mother is dying. Michel does not want to see his mother, but gives Jeanne money for her. Why does he avoid her? Bresson never supplies motives. We can only guess."[4]


Pickpocket exerted a formative influence over the work of Paul Schrader, who has described it as "an unmitigated masterpiece" and "as close to perfect as there can be", and whose films American Gigolo, Patty Hearst, and Light Sleeper all include endings similar to that of Pickpocket.[5] In addition, his screenplay for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver bears many similarities, including confessional narration and a voyeuristic look at society. Schrader's admiration for Pickpocket led to his contribution in an extra in The Criterion Collection's DVD release in 2005.

Pickpocket has been paraphrased by other films, such as Leos Carax's Les Amants du Pont-Neuf.[6]Science of Sleep, written and directed by Michel Gondry (2006)


  1. ^ Joseph Cuneen, Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film. New York: Continuum (2003): 71
  2. ^ Robert Stam, Robert Burgoyne, & Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics: structuralism, post-structuralism, and beyond. New York: Routledge (1992): 74
  3. ^ Lennard Højbjerg & Peter Schepelern, Film Style and Story: A Tribute to Torben Grodal. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Forlag (2003): 92
  4. ^ Roger Ebert, "Pickpocket (1959)" Chicago Sun-Times July 6, 1997
  5. ^ "Film-makers on film: Paul Schrader". Telegraph. 2003-01-25. Retrieved 2007-08-18.  
  6. ^ Guy Austin, Contemporary French Cinema: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press (1996): 134

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