Robert Bresson followed up au hasard Balthazar with an similar film, but this time focusing on a young woman instead of a donkey. Bresson calls the tale (and the writer’s other work — Diary of a Country Priest) “Catholic realism”, and like many applications of the terms Catholic and realism it is super depressing.
On this week’s Lost in Criterion I present a nascent Marxist reading of Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket -- if only as a counter to Pat’s sexual deviancy reading -- and come so close as I talk it out but still so far. I realized after the recording that if there is a valid Marxist interpretation of Pickpocket I had it a bit backwards: Michel steals excess value from people who (presumably) produce it, but sits on it, not using it to better society nor even to better himself. He’s the embodiment of the thieving Boss. Anyway, the film serves as a pickpocketing procedural which is fun, and is also “inspired” by Crime and Punishment in such a way that it almost feels like a parody of Dostoevsky. It’s pretty great.
We get to watch a movie about a donkey!
But the donkey doesn't talk. It's not animated. It's depressing.
I'd call au hasard Balthazar peak Bresson, but I'm betting Robert Bresson will keep surprising me. In any case this is the third and final in a string of films that claims inspiration from Fyodor Dostoevsky, and it certainly fits with the Russians' tone (though perhaps not his religiosity).
Going through the Criterion Collection by Spine number often leaves us with some interesting thematic pairs that are just disconnected enough to seem accidental: the earliest that comes to mind is the racist undertones of #32 Oliver Twist and #33 Nanook of the North.
Likewise last week's Ikiru and this week's film both deal with men dying of stomach cancer. They take vastly different paths. Robert Bresson, who we heard from once before, writes and directs Diary of a Country Priest (1951), a fairly heavy film, that may have been better if it were heavier.
Robert Bresson is French, and therefore I apologize for pronouncing the T in Robert throughout this episode. Jean-Luc Godard once wrote that "Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoyevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music." Though as it turns out Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945) may have come before Besson really became Bresson. His amazing propensity for when and how to use music is there, yeah, but this is also his last film to use professional actors, and it's only his second film. It'll be interesting to see more from him moving forward, and given his stature in French film, we certainly will.
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