Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881. Prestuplenie i nakazanie -- Film and video adaptations, Pickpockets -- France -- Drama


One of those consummate works of art which in one flash pales everything you have ever seen . . . an unmitigated masterpiece.

Paul Schrader

Martin Lasalle, Marika Green, Pierre Leymarie, Jean Pélégri,

Bresson liked to use untrained actors whose natural impassivity he harnessed to his own ends. The epiphany is Pickpocket, which in a watershed year in French cinema, 1959, was merely the most contemporary film ever made. A young recluse, Michel, drawn inexorably to picking pockets, suffers not guilt, but a kind of performance anxiety based on his Nietzschean theories of the superior man. Michel’s bewilderment as to his motivations is as thorough as ours, which is only one of the fascinating aspects of the film, obliquely but famously based on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Shot in the streets, cafes, and subways of Paris, it is a brilliant ballet of fingers, hands, glances, legs, watches, wallets, gazes from strangers indifferent or wary by turns. Everything is observable, isolated. In this way, Bresson ingeniously hones our eye to the director’s vision: while we imagine we are seeing through the eyes of the character, we instead look into his soul.

Judy Bloch
  • Robert Bresson
  • Léonce-Henri Burel
  • French
  • English subtitles
Print Info
  • B&W
  • 35mm
  • 75 mins
  • Janus Films/Criterion Collection

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Pickpocket (program note), Village Voice, J. Hoberman, 2005

States of grace (article), Village Voice, J. Hoberman, 2005

Pickpocket (program note), Toronto International Film Festival, Elia Suleiman, 2002

Pickpocket (program note), Cinematheque Ontario/a division of Toronto International Film Festival Group, 1999

The poetry of precision: the films of Robert Bresson (program note), Cinematheque Ontario/a division of Toronto International Film Festival Group, James Quandt, 1998

Robert Bresson (press kit), Pacific Film Archive, 1998

The films of Robert Bresson (distributor materials), New Yorker Films, 1993

Burel & Bresson (interview), Sight and Sound, Rui Nogueira, 1976

Pickpocket (program note), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Daryl Chin, 1970

NY film bulletin: Jean Luc Godard issue (interview), ny film bulletin, 1964

Displaying 10 of 27 publicly available documents.

View all Pickpocket documentation on CineFiles.