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One of the early images in Robert Bressons Pickpocket 1959 shows the unfocused eyes of a man obsessed by excitement and fear The mans name is Michel He lives in Paris in a small room under the eaves a garret almost filled by his cot and his books He is about to commit a crime He wants to steal another mans wallet and he wants his face to appear blank casual Perhaps it would to a casual observer But we know him and what he is about to do and in his eyes we see the trancelike ecstasy of a man who is surrendering to his compulsion Or do we Bresson one of the most thoughtful and philosophical of directors was fearful of performances by his actors He famously forced the star of A Man Escaped 1956 to repeat the same scene some 50 times until it was stripped of all emotion and inflection All Bresson wanted was physical movement No emotion no style no striving for effect What we see in the pickpockets face is what we bring to it Instead of asking his actors to show fear Bresson asks them to show nothing and depends on his story and images to supply the fear Martin Lassalle the star of Pickpocket plays Michel as an unexceptional man with a commonplace face He is not handsome or ugly or memorable He usually wears a suit and tie disappears in a crowd and has few friends To one of them in a cafe he wonders aloud if it is all right for an extraordinary man to commit a crime--just to get himself started Michel is thinking of himself He could probably get a job in a day if he wanted one But he does not He gathers his narcissism around himself like a blanket He sits in his garret and reads his books and treasures an image of himself as
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