TCF340/Cinema Ascetic: Robert Bresson (Discussion)

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Do the performances in Pickpocket--especially non-professional Martin LaSalle as Michel--seem different from conventional films? Is he a "model" instead of an "actor"? Did his performance seem "automatic"?

Actors vs. Models

  • "BEING (models) instead of SEEMING (actors)." (1)
  • "Movement from the exterior to the interior. (Actors: movement from the interior to the exterior." (2)
  • "Radically suppress intentions in your models." (8)


  • "Nine-tenths of our movements obey habit and automatism. It is anti-nature to subordinate them to will and to thought." (11)
  • "Models who have become automatic (everything weighed,measured, timed, repeated ten, twenty times) and are then dropped in the middle of the events of your film--their relations with the objects and persons around them will be right, because they will not be thought." (12)
  • "Your models, pitched into the action of your film, will get used to the gestures they have repeated twenty times. The words they have learned with their lips will find, without their minds' taking part in this, the inflections and the lilt proper to their true natures. A way of recovering the automatism of real life." (32; not part of the assigned reading)


  • "Cinematographic film, where expression is obtained by relations of images and sounds, and not by a mimicry done with gestures and intonations of voice (whether the actors' or non-actors'). One that does not analyze or explain. That recomposes." (5)

What scenes in Pickpocket seem to illustrate this sort of "recomposing"?

Opening Text (possibly not included by Bresson)

"The style of this film is not that of a thriller. Using image and sound, the filmmaker strives to express the nightmare of a young man whose weaknesses lead him to commit acts of theft for which nothing destined him. However, this adventure, and the strange paths it takes, bring together two souls that may otherwise never have met."

Obviously, Pickpocket is not a conventional thriller. How does it break the rules of the thriller genre and of classical cinema in general ?

File:Pickpocketqq01 15 05qq00166.jpg


  • Bresson, Robert. Notes on Cinematography. Translated by Jonathan Griffin. NY: Urizen, 1977

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