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80 Pickpocket 
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Post Re: 80 Pickpocket
I'll comment in your thread, Rob!

As I've endlessly harassed everyone here about it, many people here know that Taxi Driver is my favorite movie. While the style of the end product is very different, Pickpocket is a direct ancestor in the Taxi Driver bloodline. The two films share in common a strong influence in Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Paul Schrader originally envisioned Taxi Driver as a very spare, emotionally muted film in the Bressonian style. Taxi Driver's lurid, twisted romantic spirit and heightened sense of urban decay flow from Scorsese's pool of influence, but Travis Bickle himself, and the problems he surrounds himself with, are absolutely Schrader. The soul of Michel (and, by extension, Bresson) hovers over Bickle wherever he goes, as channeled into Schrader's script.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
The most fascinating thing about Bresson's ascetic style is its facility for emotional dynamics. These characters do not communicate or betray their feelings to anybody--not each other, not to us. These are not roles written for actors; there is no room for improvisation and there are no scenes to be used as chew toys. While this may seem to make for an emotionless film, it is actually profoundly emotional. When Michel finally unburdens himself to Jeanne in the jail, it is absolutely real. Here is a man who has been stripped of all his armor, who has apparently labored for years under the impression that people are to be either shut out as inconveniences or used as stepping stones. Finally, reduced to a creature of no ability and total vulnerability, he is left with no choice but to admit that he needs somebody.


One fascinating element of Pickpocket's style is its deliberate use of redundancy of information. We are often told the same thing twice, or even three times. Michel narrates what he did in his confessional voiceover. We are shown his diary, so we can see how he relates what he did to himself in his private thoughts. We also see what he did, through the utterly dispassionate gaze of Bresson's viewfinder. While this is unnecessary for communicating the plot--certainly nobody needs to be told anything three times to get a piece of information--it allows us almost a Rashomon-esque opportunity to view the happenings from multiple perspectives. The subtly different nuances in each version of the events help us into the character's mind and experience the world through him in a way that merely seeing what happened could not. This, incidentally, is one element of Bresson's style that made it into Taxi Driver through Schrader's screenplay.

If there's anybody who doesn't know this, Paul Schrader started his career as a film critic and still writes film journalism every once in a blue moon. His original writings on Pickpocket can be found on his website under the 1969 heading, and an interview with Bresson himself can be found under 1977.


Sat May 26, 2012 7:42 pm
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Post Re: 80 Pickpocket
Pickpocket

I won't lie, when I found out that Pickpocket was directed by Robert Bresson, I wasn't thrilled. I am not a fan of "that donkey movie".

Once I started watching, however, I realized I judged too quickly. Pickpocket is a perfect starting point if you are new to French cinema. You expect it to be slow and plodding, but it's really quite thrilling to watch the pickpocketing scenes. The action is very subtle and frank, but it is exciting. Apart from this, the film making is streamlined. Every scene was well crafted and effectively advanced the plot.

I usually take a lot of notes when I watch movies, but I found I had very little to say about Pickpocket. It is a great film. It's style is refreshingly blunt and straightforward; it reminded me of Drive.

3.5/4


Mon Jul 09, 2012 2:39 am
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Post Re: 80 Pickpocket
Looking forward to watching this tonight. BUMP because why the heck not.

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Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:34 pm
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Post Re: 80 Pickpocket
It saddens me that I didn't much appreciate Pickpocket despite the excellence of the raw materials. Apparently, simplicity and elegance of design just don't work for me at this stage in my life. I couldn't see past the flat affect of Martin LaSalle and the spareness of Bresson's style to the core of a tale that anyone and his brother could get behind: spirituality, morality, materialism and the war between said states. I usually love when the audience has the opportunity to do so much of the work but here I was bored. The message is eternally timely but the messenger needs some vibrance. The slowest 75 minutes of movie watching of the past several months.

And I used to be the kind of person who could love a movie like Pickpocket. :(

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Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:09 am
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