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Ready-made pressure-cookers that force viewers to question their own values, American court room films are practically a genre of their own. Yet the greatest also give in some pretty hokey dramatic impulses. Think of Jack Nicholson’s hug, “You can’t handle the truth!” At the end of “A Few Good Men.” Paul Newman’s closing argument In “The Verdict” the jury mentions symbols of faith, power and justice – and not a single fact from the case.
Otto Preminger “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959), one of the largest trial films, is not immune to that kind of grandeur, but the witness here whose last-minute testimony wraps up the proceedings does not neatly settle cases of crime or innocence. By convention, court room films tilt the audience’s sympathy towards a Dalit or wrongly accused. But in “Anatomy of a Murder”, the defendant unquestionably commits the murder he is accused of, and is played by defense attorney Jimmy Stewart – no idea of subduing, at least 50 By the end of the decade. (He played a part in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1939, but now he was in the darker, clearer stages of his career.)
Even a jazz score by Duke Ellington (which is a cameo) expresses a kind of brass ambition; It is not a film that is easily bent to melodious melodies or triumphant orchestral melodies. It is a legal drama that gives viewers confidence to live in gray areas – what a character calls the “natural impurities of the law”.
Paul Begler (Stewart) says of late in “Anatomy of a Murder”, “As a lawyer I’ve had to learn that people are not good or bad, but people are a lot of things.” As the film arrives stating its animated theory. It tells Preminger’s audacity that the film takes an hour before entering a courtroom. The first section is devoted to establishing the characters, intersecting the facts of the case and dedicating a legal theory that a jury might believe the murder was in any way excusable.
Bessler is a small-time lawyer on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, earning a comfortable living while many fish have time to catch piles in their fridge. “I run from John Doe in something pithy and Jane Doe at once,” he explains. He is being polite: Although he does not have much experience as a defense attorney, he used to be a district attorney. His knowledge of that office serves him well when he goes on a different type of fishing expedition, revealing important information about the polygraph test to the current DA (Brooks West).
The case involves Lieutenant Frederick Mansion (Ben Gazara), a Korean War veteran who shot and killed a bar owner named Barney Quill. The lieutenant’s wife, Laura (Lee Rimick), had told him that Barney had raped her. “I have unwritten law,” Mansion told Begler, but Begler states that “unwritten law is a myth.”
A string of written legal premises will rest in the case of the closure of the mansion. He may have been murdered in a dissatisfied state. That state may or may not meet the legal definition of insanity. It may be that a vague example from the state’s Supreme Court would allow Beagler to thread a needle.
Has anyone been implicated in this trial who is not guilty in any way? Certainly not Frederick, who is set up as an abusive, jealous husband with a violent temperament. And maybe not Laura. While accusing the victim today is a film made in 1959, and an Assistant Attorney General (George C. Scott) brought in by the District Attorney to help, goes to some lengths to tell the jury That the way Laurie got dressed and acting on the night of the crime means that she invited what happened to her. (At her behest, she was also probably doing “a play for Quill.”) Preminger has already established Laura as a firecracker who can blaze: when she first beggars in her office. , She actually makes herself at home on the couch. And Rimmick, whose performance toggles between vulnerability and fickleness at one time, creates a multidimensional character that remains a marvel of ambiguity.
“An Anatomy of a Murder” hardly represents Preinger’s first challenge to the Prodinger Code Administration or the local censor board, both of whom tried to hand over the material presented in the films to the police. His 1953 film, “The Moon is Blue,” is considered a comedy, which has adopted a blasphemous attitude towards sex that has been opened without the administration’s signoff. Priminger’s “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955), starring Frank Sinatra, focused on a heroin addiction.
Nevertheless, “Anatomy of a Murder” still packs a punch with characters discussing rape, contraception and panties. The judge, Weaver, will have to ask the court room audience not to laugh whenever undergarments are mentioned.
While some other preminger films of the era (“Bonjour Tristesi” from 1958 or “Porky and Bays”, released in the same year as “Murder”), used wide-screen formats like Cinemascope or Todd-AO, “Anatomy of a Murder” Used. They favor claustrophobic creations that ask viewers to judge the reactions of multiple characters simultaneously. Pay full attention to the questioning scenes: Preminger often attests to attorneys, witnesses and – the judge taking a little care in the background.
About that judge: To the extent that “Anatomy of a Murder” has an apparent crime, it is the scene of Joseph Ann Welch’s theft in the role. Surprisingly, he was not an actor at all: At the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearing, Welch is known as the army’s special counsel, in which he gave Joseph McCarthy a dressing-down that contemporary audiences can remember from television is. : “For a long time, haven’t you left a sense of decency?”
After a meeting with lawyers from both sides in his Chambers, Judge Weaver delivers a line of his own era: “Clash over. Will we now join the battlefield? “