The Mozart of Pickpockets [subtitled]

The Mozart of Pickpockets

I thought this half hour or so French short The Mozart of Pickpockets was at least pretty good. It’s about a couple of petty criminals who take in a deaf and dumb boy who follows them home to their seedy hotel one day. Gradually they bond with him, then take him on as a sort of partner. He turns out to be something of a pickpocket prodigy.

It’s well done. It’s mildly humorous in a whimsical way, and it’s got the heartwarming thing going with the human relationship of these two men and the boy.

There are two points I would make against it. One, my interest did flag a little as it went on—it’s a bit long for a “short”—and it could have used a little stronger storyline with more of a payoff at the end. Instead it’s just a kind of slice of life of these characters coming together and becoming crime partners, and the ending implies just that they’re probably going to continue along that path.

Which relates to the second criticism I have. I guess I should issue a “Moralism Alert!” warning, but I’m not a hundred percent comfortable with a film that glorifies this kind of criminal behavior. Clearly all three of these characters are supposed to be likable, and they are, to a limited extent.

But they’re also unrepentant thieves. And as minor crimes go, pickpocketing is actually a pretty bad one in my book. It’s one where the gain to the criminal (the money) is far less than the loss to the victim (the money, but also potentially pretty extreme inconvenience—consider the loss of all one’s ID, being stranded as a tourist in an unfamiliar place where you might not even speak the language, etc.).

It’s really an ugly thing to devote time and effort to. Yeah that’s great that they’re kind in some immediate sense to the deaf boy (giving him food and such), but does that somehow outweigh the daily evil of their lifestyle?

It’s a whimsical, humorous, nice little story, but those positives, for me, are tempered by the realization that basically they’re dragging this child onto the path like that spoken of by the boy in Born Into Brothels when he comments on one of the other children that soon enough “She’ll be doing drugs and snatching money from people in the street.”

That’s what this stuff’s about in real life. Child abuse takes many forms. These “likable” guys are damaging this child at least as much as if they were physically beating him day after day.

I’m getting too cranky about these things in my old age. I liked Paper Moon quite a lot when I saw it as a child; I wonder if I would just see it as a hurtful and negative story now?

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