Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Why does Michel steal? What causes him to be a recluse? Was he ever connected to others? These questions, as well as others, are left unanswered in Pickpocket by Robert Bresson. However, it is not a story with closure that Bresson sought out to portray, it is the compulsive obsession of Michel he wants us to experience and not necessarily understand.

The stoic and systematic main character, Michel never seems to have open discourse with others: his mother, his friends or authority figures. However, he openly communicates to other petty thieves and his journal. This theme of limited communication accentuates the significance of sound and body language through out the film.

I found myself intoxicated by Michel’s frame of mind. The eyes are almost blank in expression, pierced by a dark mind. The ambient sound of shoe soles, transit signals and dollies set a trance for theft. Michel also seemed to be shot from the wrists up while he was prowling for new victims. The erotic focus on fingers and palms gripping, folding then relaxing, forced me to follow his fixation on mannerisms.

A pickpocket needs to be aware of: sound, body language, the hands of others and his own. The questions we are left with are not meant to be answered because Michel does not care if we understand. Therefore, we are only given his point of view, awareness of sound, obsession with hands and their mannerisms and the faces of unsuspecting-sacrificial victims. I believe that Bresson’s purpose was to place us into the mind of Michel, as cold as it was. If Michel rarely communicates with others throughout the story, why should Bresson communicate the voids of him to us? Who ever really knows why people do what they do? Brilliant.

Bob le Flambeur

With any game rules apply. The significance of the moves you make depends on strategy. Never show your hand. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. How the game is played against you is not always fair. Being a polite opponent does not define a loser. Losing does not always mean the game is over, you can always play again. Perhaps the use of checker patterns symbolizes the way Robert Montagne of Bob le Flambeur, by Jean-Pierre Melville, symbolizes the way he views and live his life.

The checker theme is present in Bob’s apartment (kitchen floor), on his close friend’s office wall, and at Yvonne’s bar. These are the key locations where Bob contemplates his next moves. Between these locations he plays cards and dice, makes deals, and rehearses a heist, etcetera. In all locations Bob played a perpetual game of life and he is an admirable player.

I find main character, Robert Montagne to be very likeable because he displays decent boundaries. Anything petty is beneath him. He never sweats over losing everything. He refuses to finance a pimp. He has a patriarchal persona with Paulo and Anne. For example, he does not take advantage of Anne (a young woman) although she invites it. Instead he looks after her by offering her shelter. He does not interrupt intimacy or let anyone else, even if it is at his home. He also has a sense of humor. He is very private. All of this is despite the fact that he is a thief and a high roller. His one downfall is that his philosophy on privacy is not shared by others. This illuminates a strong theme within Bob le Flambeur.

A woman can threaten the strength of a man. Montagne experiences two breaches. Both occur because partners in crime (Paulo and Jean the Gropier) confide in the women with whom they are intimate. These condemning conversations are also both staged within boudoirs. This theme designs an unfortunate chain of events which conclude the film.

By the end of Bob le Flambeur, Paulo is dead and Bob is on his way to prison. The game is over, for now. Bob loses his hand, with grace and a sense of humor, and is thinking about the next.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The car, elevator, restroom, movie theatre and boudoir scenes in Breathless, by Jean-Luc Godard, add a dense quantity of intimacy. However, the abrupt jump cuts and play on sound discombobulate the viewer’s connection with the characters.

Although these scenes are interesting and allow us to see the other norms of a gangster, besides the crime scenes between them, they do not enhance or even implore the empathy from the viewer.

It seems that the choices in editing and sound are the key contributors in separating the viewer from the characters. The jump cuts constantly discern the concentration on continuity. For instance, while watching Michel walk down a street, the point of view is cut from an left side to an extreme right,which makes this film’s motion scatter. This creates a constant detachment. The sound choices further intensify the distraction. For instance, the volume of sirens is increased in the bedroom scene. Perhaps this is informing us of future hazard. Another observation is that periodically a single gun shot was inserted. Perhaps this foreshadows death. It also interrupts the current story line.

By the end of the film, I found myself lacking any empathy for any characters in the film. Although I was invited to view diverse intimate scenes, I was always challenged to make sense of what the point was. Perhaps in portraying Michel this way Jean-Luc Godard meant to tell me that being a gangster was pointless and he is inevitably breathless.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Les Cousins

The Obstacles between Man and Woman

French new wave film Les Cousins by Claude Chabrol delivers bold and dramatic symbols of interpretation— the obstacles between a man and a woman. Although the relationship between Charles and Florence is merely a supportive theme in the overall goal of illustrating the failures of a countryman’s hopes in a city, I found myself drawn to it.

The way in which they meet is the least memorable scene. They cross paths in a pub. Here the viewer is only exposed to a brief dry conversation initiated by Charles. It is quickly distracted by the other occurrences at the bar. This scene is constantly cut as it offers other occurrences at the same time. However, this distraction would appear minor compared to the future interactions between Charles and Florence.

During a party scene, later in the film, the obstacles between Charles and Florence are more pronounced. Their placement with in the mise-en-scene illustrates these bold obstructions. Once they finally meet again at this party they find themselves divided by a tall-metallic fireplace that they literally have to move around to connect. They also experience this just outside of the apartment at a tree. Once they make it around the tree, although their conversation is shot in medium to close up, their responses are delivered in a series of pan shots. There is always an obstacle between them even if it is negative space.

Obstacles evolve into personifications as Charles attempts to get Florence alone in a car ride. They are interrupted by Paul, Charles’ cousin, and his wild party guests, as they run out from the party to join them in separate cars. By the time Charles and Florence reunite again they are divided by bars and dark stripes.

Whether they are on the terrace where Florence is sun bathing or showering with Paul (her new discovered lover), the obstacles increase in scale and significance. Even the ending of their relationship is intensely dramatic.

During the last party scene they are further interrupted by guests. As they enact the final argument which severs any possibility of them uniting, Charles pushes her out of his room. As the mirrored door closes his reflection is yanked away by the door's abrupt pivot. These symbols which are created by direction, cinematography and mise-en-scene create an obvious composition of destiny. Charles and Florence were never meant to be.