Year: 1959
UK: Artificial Eye
Cast: Martin Lasalle, Pierre Leymarie, Marika Green, Kassagi, Pierre Etaix, Jean Pelegri, Dolly Scal
Director: Robert Bresson
Country: France
Language: French (English subtitles)
UK: 76 mins
UK Certificate: PG
UK Release Date: 8 April 2005 (Limited Re-release - London)
UK Distributor


Michel (Martin Lasalle) is a petty thief who, after being arrested and then released, starts discussing the rights and wrongs of crime with the police inspector. The only way he can find a place for himself in society is to engineer a head-on collision with it. It gives him a reason to live. In that way, picking pockets becomes an exciting, almost sexual adventure. It is a kind of pact with the Devil. But he has to leave France for London when the band of thieves he joins is arrested. And when he returns he is also caught. It is only when he is visited in prison by Jeanne (Marika Green), the girl who looked after his mother before she died and is now abandoned with a child, that he realises that his whole life could be changed by love.

Robert Bresson was one of the foremost artists of the modern cinema, acclaimed as such by directors of a younger generation as diverse as Martin Scorsese, Bernardo Bertolucci and Andrei Tarkovsky. He was a fastidious and uncompromising filmmaker whose work had an unmistakable style and expressed a strong personal vision.

The word most often used to describe his films was austere. Like his contemporary in the theatre, Samuel Beckett, he reduced his art to its barest essentials. His films were slow and deliberate, devoid of cinematic flourishes, using minimum dialogue and dispensing with conventional music. Although many of Bresson's films began, paradoxically, as literary adaptations, the results were pure cinema.

Through them he pursued common themes, many derived from his Roman Catholic background: the quest for spiritual freedom and fulfilment, the attempt to control destiny, the acceptance of fate. For some critics his vision was cheerless and inhuman but he deliberately refused the concessions that might have given his films a more popular appeal.

Filmed in black and white.