The Film (4/5)
Pickpocket follows Michel, a Parisian man who lives for his profession. That profession happens to be that of a professional pickpocket. As the film opens he is not very good at his chosen profession, and due to his lack of skill gets arrested. He is quickly released due to lack of evidence. After this he meets a pair of pros who teach him the ropes, and begins to practice techniques by doing such things as stealing his own watch off a table leg. The 3 of them become a skillful working unit, and Michel begins to get confident in his own personal skills, that is until his partners are arrested. He disappears for a few years, but falls upon some hard times, and returns to Paris. Before and during this he attempts to spark up a relationship with Jeanne, the caretaker of his estranged and sickly Mother.
Bresson was described as an Atheist Christian, an odd and yet accurate description. A viewer can easily make note of the lack of spirituality in his films, the same viewer can also feel Bresson's near oppressive atmosphere of guilt. His characters are frequently flawed protagonist if not on a moral level, than on an emotional level, and this is true not just for Pickpocket, but for films ranging from Au Hazard Balthazar, Diary of a Country Priest, and Lancelot of the Lake.
Bresson's style in Pickpocket is stylistically calculated, he is a very minimalist director, and that certainly applies to this film. However, in that minimalism is a certain storytelling precision. Bresson uses so little in his shots to convey so much emotional power. This coupled with the performances in the film, which were carefully crafted between Bresson and the cast which was compromised of non-actors. The style of the acting much like the direction is minimalist, and also very cold and calculated as if every ounce of emotion from the performance had been drained from the actors prior to shooting. It makes Pickpocket feel like something extraordinary when compared to it's contemporaries, and the film with it's style and performances still feels powerful over 5 decades after it's creation.
Criterion has brought Pickpocket to Blu-ray in a glorious 1:37:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. This transfer looks every bit as good as you would expect, the contrast is very good, fine detail is excellent throughout, and their is a glorious natural amount of film grain present. Criterion have presented the audio in a very pleasant LPCM 1.0 Mono track in French. This track does the job with dialogue and effects coming through nicely, and no issues to complain about.
Criterion have carried over their extras from their prior Pickpocket DVD release from 2005. That being said that release was quite comprehensive and is not likely to leave the viewer wanting. The release kicks off with an introduction to Paul Schraeder who wrote of Bresson in his excellent book Transcendental Style in Film: Dreyer, Ozu, Bresson. He discusses the film (watch out for spoilers first timers), it's influence on his work from his film to his book, it runs 14 minutes in length and is a must watch. We also get 3 interviews with a few members of the main cast including the actors who played Michel and Jeanne in a segment called the models of Pickpocket. We got a commentary track with a film historian discussing the film, 2 clips from TV shows one featuring Bresson, the other featuring the cast of the film, and to round it off we get trailers, galleries, and a booklet.
Bresson's Pickpocket receives a fantastic A/V upgrade from the Criterion Collection. The Blu-ray makes the film look and sound better than it ever has. The extras although older, are still excellent and worthy of your time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.