Movies about criminals tend to be emotional. There’s the thrill of the heist as it happens, the hubris of being out of Johnny Law’s reach, the sparks that fly as members of the opposite sex are attracted, and much more. However, little of that is visually evident in Bresson’s PICKPOCKET.
There’s a blankness and confusion time and again in this criminal’s life, as evidenced by the images below. The moments of deeper intrigue are watching the actual mechanics of the pickpockets’ petty larceny, but they play better in-sequence than they do as a still image.
…but then there’s this moment above…
It’s the closest our anti-hero gets to being caught in the act, and it’s an expression that seems gloriously charged. Here stands a man, minding his own business on the metro, just trying to read his newspaper. Second-by-second, he becomes more and more aware of a fellow traveler invading his personal space. As a subway rider, I’ve been there, and it always sucks.
But this instance is different – this man knows something is up. At the very least he suspects it. If any of us were in this scenario, we’d pull back…close ourselves in…internally mutter to ourselves while we try not to make a scene.
But not this man.
This man looks the criminal in the eye. He doesn’t say a word – not an “excuse me” or “do you mind?” Instead he meets our emotionally numb anti-hero with a look of true defiance. He’s not going to dignify his offender by vocalizing his emotions, but he will put those emotions of anger, annoyance, and defiance in his eyes. It’s less “please step back” than it is “I double dare you, asshole”.
Regardless of the outcome, that takes balls. It’s like parking your car in the worst part of your town and looking someone shifty in the eye as you set something expensive in plain view on the passenger seat.
On the one hand this image stands out because it’s the only visual reaction we get from a target of these criminals (most of their victims are seen only in passing as they are pilfered from). But on the other hand, it stands out because It’s the most amount of raw emotion we will see in the entire film, and it comes from a mark…not a thief.
Pity after this look he still gets ripped off anyway.
Here’s three more from PICKPOCKET for the road…
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far