Pickpocket (1959) at Film Forum

It’s Friday the 13th, favorite of the hapless. Some of your friends are suffering lines at the local tattoo shop for $13 specials (one Brooklyn hotspot offers Mayan ziggurats, a special apocalyptic departure from the standard 13-sailed ship fare). Others are at home with a case of cheap swill, enjoying the violent excesses of a semi-retarded hockey-masked psychopath obsessed with teenagers at lakeside summer getaways. We’re getting busy at Film Forum, accidentally celebrating the superstitious with an appropriately timed screening of Pickpocket.

Part of the theater’s Bresson Festival, Pickpocket (1959) traces familiar territory. Ripped directly from a few key chapters of Crime and Punishment, the plot follows a young man in the throes of a Raskolnikov complex that revolves around one central question: Should men of genius be exempt from moral codes if the violation of such would ultimately promote social good? It’s all pretension. As with Dostoevsky’s hero, Bresson’s (Michel) never reveals much in his crime than getting-away-with-it as an end in itself. On the other hand, Michel’s titular crime is petty in nature (he never bashes brains out of the elderly for cash) and the psychological impact of the act is expressed, rather than painful passages of fevered paranoia dreams, through the patiently shot suspense and hilarity of Michel’s street luck. The themes at play here will tickle your inner existentialist (this is a high time in French philosophical culture: Sartre was likely within meters of the set working on his Critique of Dialectical Reason at the time of production) and there’s a woman, love, redemption awaiting us at the end when all the luck runs out.

Oh, and thankfully, Michel never finds God in the course of these excellent 75 minutes.

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