Pickpocket (1959)


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This incomparable story of crime and redemption from the French master Robert Bresson follows Michel, a young pickpocket who spends his days working the streets, subway cars, and train stations of Paris. As his compulsive pursuit of the thrill of stealing grows, however, so does his fear that his luck is about to run out. A cornerstone of the career of this most economical and profoundly spiritual of filmmakers, Pickpocket is an elegantly crafted, tautly choreographed study of humanity in all its mischief and grace, the work of a director at the height of his powers.

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Jean Pelegri
as Police Inspector
as Master Pickpocket
Pierre Étaix
as Accomplice
Dolly Scal
as Michel's Mother
Cesar Gattegno
as Detective
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News & Interviews for Pickpocket

Critic Reviews for Pickpocket

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (8)

The movie, above all, affirms the miracle of redemptive love and its price in humility and unconditional surrender.

Jul 2, 2018 | Full Review…

A picture so original in style that it sometimes seems downright peculiar.

Mar 5, 2013 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Robert Bresson made this short electrifying study in 1959; it's one of his greatest and purest films, full of hushed transgression and sudden grace.

Mar 5, 2013 | Full Review…

Bresson choreographs the complex techniques of lifting wallets and watches with such precision that one seems to be watching a kind of surreptitious ballet.

Mar 5, 2013 | Full Review…
New Yorker
Top Critic

French director Robert Bresson used his nonactors only once and orchestrated every gesture and glance; the performances that resulted are both mesmerizing and suffused with mystery.

Feb 27, 2007 | Rating: A | Full Review…

Bresson's goals were deep; to sweep away the dross of expectation and viewing conventions by means of a purified cinema. At times in this thief's journal his visual discourse touches the sublime.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Pickpocket

Bresson's unemotional style and wooden performances may not be accessible to everyone but it is impressive how he holds our interest in the many minutiae of the pickpocketing sleight of hand tricks, making them seem more like an art than a condemnable deed.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


The appeal of "Pickpocket" is less about its story (the title is self-explanatory) and more about the deft economy of Robert Bresson's direction. Not a stroke is wasted. The depictions of intricate, tag-team pickpocket moves are especially sharp -- the eye can barely follow the action. "Pickpocket" has one glaring handicap: The untrained actors look strangely dazed throughout the film. This may be an intentional effect, but their stupor leaves little room for an emotional connection. Luckily, the movie is over so soon that it never has a chance to turn dull.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

Written and directed by acclaimed french film-maker Robert Bresson, Pickpocket is the stark story of an impoverished, would-be writer who takes to a life of crime, partly as a necessity and partly for the simple thrill of it. Michel (Martin LaSalle) rarely evokes much emotion during the course of the film, but his eyes speak volumes. His apartment is so stark, it doesn't even have a handle or lock on the door, just a flimsy little hook to keep it shut when he wants some privacy. He seems to have only one suit, which he wears at all times. His friend Jacques (Pierre Leymarie) tries to help him get a job, so he might buy some new clothes even, but it's an effort that's wasted on a disinterested party. When Michel comes to visit his dying mother, he meets the woman next door who has been caring for her. Jeanne (Markia Green) strikes his interest, but her pretty face is nothing compared to the allure of pickpocketing. He makes friends with other pickpockets, and learns a great deal from his companions (he's always studying to better himself at this craft). Only his conscience, in the guise of a police inspector, ever slows him down or gives him thought. As the film progresses, Michel gets more and more paranoid (but not enough to quit). In the dvd commentary, writer Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) explains that Bresson was trying to upset the audience's sense of well-being by not following the rules one expects when sitting down to watch a film. He uses very little music in his film, using it only here and there, sometimes at appropriate times, sometimes at seemingly inappropriate ones. He also avoids showing key points to the film (something that should never happen), such as when Michel gets arrested early in the picture: one moment he's walking down the street, confident and on top of the world, the next he's sitting in the back of a police car. The actual arrest isn't shown. Whether Bresson was intentionally trying to upset the viewer or simply trying to upset the apple cart and shake things up a little bit, I'm not sure, but it's certainly an interesting movie.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic]In "Pickpocket", Michel is a pickpocket of some talent but very little knowledge. His mother who he cannot bring himself to visit is seriously ill. Along the way, he makes new friends with his mother's neighbors, a police detective and an expert pickpocket who enlists and trains him.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]Robert Bresson is more interested in getting inside the head of a criminal than in judging him. He is most curious about why a thief does steal. The highlight of the film is definitely the pickpocketing sequences. The ending is a bit of a letdown, though.[/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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