November 13, 1909 — May 24, 1986
“Smiles of a Summer Night was my best part of all, I think, to play. It was a wonderful time. So it went on from year to year. The part of the writer in Through a Glass Darkly was a portrait of Bergman himself. I had to weep, very short and very intensely, and when they did the playback it was too short. So, Ingmar said it was so good, but one more take, one more take! Anything I am playing, I draw it from within myself, from every part of my character. Being an actor means taking one aspect of yourself and projecting it—you’ve got everything within you, actually. That can be very difficult, especially to avoid compromising. I cannot do it coldly and technically.”
Robert Bresson’s 1959 film Pickpocket is superior to Steve McQueen’s 2011 film Shame, but to be inferior to Pickpocket is hardly an embarrassment. Both films explore willfully isolate protagonists who immerse themselves in addictive pleasures to escape vulnerability. In Pickpocket, Michel (Martin LaSalle) pickpockets, and in Shame, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) orgasms. But while Brandon seems painfully aware throughout Shame of his compulsion and its destructive qualities, Michel entertains a half-hearted philosophy in which breaking the law may be an artform, and he becomes aware of his dire situation only in Pickpocket’s final breathtaking moments. It would be reductive to say that one approach to the subject of compulsion is inherently preferable to the other, but perhaps illuminating to explore the ways in which these separate approaches foster distinct attitudes toward cinema.