Thursday, September 25, 2008


In my analysis of Pickpocket, I feel that it may help to approach it from a different theoretical angle - that of the Russian Formalists. As asserted by the Russian Formalists, and in alignment with their theories on literature, film is not a true reflection of reality, but is a complex system of intertwining, interdependent signs. Due to the nature of film itself - the planar quality of the screen, the single perspective of the camera, the boundaries of the image displayed, etc. - it is rendered abstract and very much dissimilar to reality. I find it inarguably fitting to analyze Bresson's Pickpocket with this basic idea in mind - the idea that film is a distortion, rather than a reflection, of reality.

The thing that strikes me most significantly concerning this distortive quality in the film Pickpocket is the extreme and unrealistic subtlety of motion and speech with which each character drifts through the story. The acting styles are quite monotone and emotionless - or, rather, of one chief emotion - a sort of sober, tempered, and reticent introversion. Their motions are subtle, yet swift and determined. Conversation among characters is limited and brief. In scenes that one may argue, if speaking in terms of natural reality, demand a specific and possibly even intense display of emotion, the specific emotion is indeed displayed, yet it is dominantly pervaded by this moderate and tempered aura. Thematically speaking, this works to reflect the physical nature and presence of a pickpocket. However, and more importantly, it is a means of ‘defamiliarizing’ the world presented by the film to the viewer, perhaps to imply or posit larger philosophical questions. The film seems to accomplish this by drawing the viewer away from a typical display of human emotion and engaging them in world which seems, in many ways, to reflect the natural world, but in many more ways is quite incongruous with it.

Also, as I interpret it, the film, while distorting reality, also diverges from certain and expected story telling conventions. An example of this divergance comes near the end of the film when Michel is close to being arrested. He decides to run. The narration explains that he ran for two years, thieving and then wasting his money on booze and women. After these two years, he returns home, insolvent. Though these two years have passed, and are indeed part of the story, the plot presents relatively nothing of them. In a brief narrative explanation, the two years come and pass rather insignificantly in a matter of seconds. Aside from tone and character demeanor, which remains consistent throughout the film, the world to which Michel returns has changed. Jeanne is found, abandoned by her father and Jacques, with a child. We as the viewers are left a bit perplexed by this sudden temporal jump - it seems as though what would have been a significant portion of the story was by accident left on the cutting room floor, which thus furthers the film's status as a strange distortion of reality.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bob le Flambeur

In terms of mere viewer engagement, Bob le Flambeur succeeds. Its plot is thorough and meticulously conceived and constructed, and is thus an interesting and enjoyable film. However, and this may be my opinion alone, the film seems to lack in substance thematically (the ideas of fate and luck prove to be rather underdeveloped in the film). Most every element in the film that may be considered in thematic analysis seems to exist more to serve the plot and the progression of the story than to make any kind of an artistic or thematic statement. For example, Yvonne’s character is, in reality, minimal and unsubstantial thematically – her main purpose serves in revealing the plan to Marc, which inevitably leads to the police disruption of the planned casino heist.

However, Bob’s sort of paternal care of Yvonne, a na├»ve and essentially homeless young woman, does point to one thing of thematic interest – Bob’s morality. Bob’s moral awareness, obviously yet still interestingly, works in contrast to his persona as a gambler and a criminal, and adds certain color and nuance to his character, while still serving the plot – his disapproval of the poor treatment of women, prostitute or otherwise, sets the stage for his ultimate downfall.

Shot largely at night, with an evident tone resembling film noir, the film proved to be aesthetically pleasing and on level with the subject matter and genre - ganster. The use of contrasting shadow and light, gangsters and gamblers roaming about in the darkness and corners of the city, rain, and a jumpy (fast to slow, slow to fast)and jazzy soundtrack all work well in creating a satisfying aesthetic experience for the viewer.