Monday, September 22, 2008


It is hard to discern a clear theme out of Bresson's "Pickpocket". The main character Michel is a thief, plain and simple. So little else is shown about the character. He seems devoid of emotion unless it is the thrill of stealing. His dealings with women and his mother seem distant and forced. Pickpocketing becomes his career and life at the very beginning of the film. Michel steals things, practices stealing things, and likely sits in his room thinking about stealing in the meantime.

Pickpocketing is a relatively minor crime, but Michel is never portrayed feeling any kind of guilt or conscience about what he steals. He hints at the idea that he is above the law, or "a superman". This is apparently the way that he escapes any kind of self-scrutiny, is with his 'superman theory'. The only thing that Michel expresses regret for is his careless attempted theft that landed him in jail. He even mentions making it as hard as he can for the police that have imprisoned him. If being imprisoned really bothers Michel he does little to show it in way of emotion. In fact, there seems to be little difference between Michel sitting in his room or his prison cell.

The thing that changes most for Michel, in prison, is his relationship with Jeanne. The scene where Michel is visited by Jeanne in prison is very awkward, and both characters seem to be more resigned to fate than anything else. Michel is oddly kissing Jeanne's forehead while she is slightly clinging to him. To me, it is unclear why Jeanne would have any interest in Michel, as he portrays no positive aspects other than providing her with some money at one point in the film. He seems so impersonal that as a viewer of the film, I cannot imagine him involved in any type of romance or attraction in his character.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Michel, the chain smoking anti-hero in Godard's Breathless, has everyman written all over him. In modern context, the idea of a person being hypnotized by popular culture is especially relevant. In a society where murderers are defended by a "video games made me do it" excuse, the idea that a film or any piece of art can have such an influence over someone is definitely worth exploring.

While not incredibly overbearing, it is very clear that Michel idolizes the American gangster. The way this is portrayed in Breathless would seem to be in concert with the criticisms many bring to bear on modern art and media. Michel seems to switch very quickly and nonchalantly from normal to criminal. It is as though his criminal actions have no effect on him, or he has no conscience. It is not really explored in the film how much American film has influenced these actions, or what kind of person was in the past, but a case could certainly be made either way.

At the time that this film was made, I am not sure how much people really believed that film or any kind of art could be responsible for the actions of its audience. This probably has to do with the ultra violent entertainment that has since become such an integral part of our culture. It is also unclear to me whether or not Godard saw this idolization as pure fantasy, only used as a thematic device, or whether he really thought such was a real issue.

Speculation aside, Michel is certainly a very interesting character worthy of attention. He seemingly has no moral compass and literally lives for his primal pleasures and desires. It is simply much easier for him to commit a robbery than spend his time working at a nine to five job. Even his dealings with women have 'instant gratification' written all over them. He is the personification of a degenerate youth, yet you can't help but watch his every move.