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Interpreting Film Masterpieces / Pickpocket (Robert Bresson 1959)

  • WHITNEY HUMANITIES CENTER 53 Wall Street New Haven, CT, 06511 United States (map)
It is, at base, about self-fulfilment and redemption through love - a common enough idea in films. But this 1959 epic has seldom been equalled as a philosophical treatise on the subject. The point is that the film is as much a visual argument as a spoken one. Michel (Martin Lasalle) is a petty thief who, after being arrested and then released, starts discussing the rights and wrongs of crime with the police inspector. The only way he can find a place for himself in society is to engineer a head-on collision with it. It gives him a reason to live. In that way, picking pockets becomes an exciting, almost sexual adventure. It is a kind of pact with the Devil. But he has to leave France for London when the band of thieves he joins is arrested. And when he returns he is also caught. It is only when he is visited in prison by Jeanne (Marika Green), the girl who looked after his mother before she died and is now abandoned with a child, that he realises that his whole life could be changed by love. The humiliation of prison inspires him to a desperate act of faith.  The Guardian
Earlier Event: November 9
Artist + Critic Talk: David Getsy
Later Event: November 9
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