October 18, 2009

Chicago

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B22XodQP7B0&feature=related

The world where a crime is merely a nourishment for press and a trial is just a show where a criminal has his 5 min of fame. Forgotten victim, manipulation and easily convincable jury - this is what constitutes justice in the Windy City. Where is the truth? How far can we go in retelling the story for the sake of winning the case?

Roxie Hart, bored downtown housewife, seeks for excitment outside her marriage. Not only that however. She betrays her husband with a furniture seller who promises her to introduce her to some prominent guy who will enable her the career of actres she has always dreamt about. When the obvious verity comes out and the guy beats her up, she, ripped off her hopes, shoots him. This is her first step to career. The second is when she hires a 'never-lost-a-case' lawer Billy. Then everything accelerates. He uses media to spotlight Roxie's case and teaches her the art of semblance.  The truth is not what the jury needs to hear, they need the past so coloured that they will mercy the criminal. Billy, in a singy way, presents the ugly reality of justice administration and the people who crave for some fresh flesh. Before Roxie's case Velma Kelly, another killer, was the famous one - she had all the headlines and hot publicity. Now, in jail both fight rather for the attention of media than for the winning of the case because they know that a good lawer, which they already have, may give them existence, but only newspapers can give them 'being' they desire. Nevertheless, once the case is won they cease to be interesting and so, also popular. One case follows another,audience wants to be suprised by yet another homicide.

Chicago can really make us think that a trial has nothing to do with the truth, that is is just about the show. Billy sings gently: 'razzle-dazzle them', give them fleshes, passion, give them show! and compares the trial to the circus. And what is the show about? Acting and make-believe! She dresses Roxie so that she looks modest, teaches word-by-word how to answer the questions - Billy knows the language of the jury, realizes that appearances can do more good for him than the truth. More! He doesn't even take the truth into consideration. He doesn't even ask about it when he meets the client. This is a good trick: if he knew the truth it would be for him unethical to encourage Roxie to plead not guilty. He doesn't ask, so he can invent the entire story and so, manipulate the jury. He escapes from thinking - he puts his client into such stories which he knows allow to avert conviction instead of exercising with factual situations. It sortov shows that justice administration totally diverges from morals and that it is essential for you to hire a lawer to win - otherwise you would be inclined to tell the truth and end up on a death row... Just like their Hungarian friend who got hung because she didn't know what to say (and most probably she wouldn't know how to say it as well), had no lawer and proper publicity; her case however was deadly similar to Roxie's and Velma's cases, so we see that the justice relies grossly on the lawer who constructs the defence.

The crime is cool. It is fun to know the details, have the same haircut as the criminal and buy your daughter a Roxie-doll. To be a part of the show - of course! Press just feeds the appetites of news-hungry rabble and temporarily puts on pedestal yet another crime celebrity. Therefore, the importance of the media is overwhelming as it wins some 'sympathy-points' for the accused. Therefore, the lawers has to belong and inscribe himself into this mass hysteria and play in the court. Example? Billy gives Roxie a tissue even before she starts crying. Or another. He shouts 'objection' before a prosecutor askes a question. Silly? Yes,but this is what people want.

The interesting side-plot in the film is the relationships in the jail, namely the relationship between jail's 'Mama' and her girls. 'When you are good to Mama, Mama's good to You'. Mama Morton can make a call to get a lawer for you, buy some shampoo you wouldn't get in the jail and so on. She enables a criminal to get out of prison by helping with small things which amount to big part of the defence. Although she does it for money, she also establishes some kind of connection with the girls as she wants to be in the show. Her vanity pushes her to safely benefit from the popularity of those under her charge while not being punished in case the case fails. Mama Morton also colaborates with Velma and advices her - the diary issue - she plays an important role from the backstage. She is the part of the maschinery and knows of the lies of Velma and Roxie but does nothing to bring the girls to REAL justice. Yet another example that justice administration is corrupted and immoral... Billy wins the cases for fame (I forgot to mention that during the press conference this was he who answered the questions, not Roxie - this is his show in fact, criminals are just the dolls who think it is all about them), Morton doesn't make justice happen because the intrigue and injustice are more fascinating.

The last aspect I will briefly mention here is Roxie's pregnancy. 'Fake' pregnancy. When the ground benath her started to burn she got this brilliant idea to pretend she is expecting a baby. Yet another dirty trick... How far can one go to reach for what he wants? That far. Show must go on.


October 11, 2009

Michael Clayton

Coulisse of law corporations, the fight between the will to suceed and the drive towards justice... Michael Clayton is the lawer who does the donkey work - he solves the unsolvable: he settles the extincition of investigation in the case of road accident made by some 'big fish', rescues the reputation of a politician who was caught to behave carelessly. By the time. Doubts come when his friend, Arthur, one of the most cunning lawers 'freeks out' and sabotages the work of his employer: UNorth. It turns out that UNorth is polluting the environment and effictively killing people, which Arthur discovers and choses not to defend the company from the plaintiffs whose families has been suffering because of the pollutant. Arthur starts his own crusaide to punish his wrongdoers by misrepresenting them and gathering documents for the claimants; Michael is to shut him down, so that UNorth can win the case worth several millions of dollars. Clayton finds himself in a trap - either will be betray a friend and his conscience and stand for the bad to pay his debts, or he will favor his internal justice and lose a job.

Cases do not dealt with just in the court. Lots of details like evidence, testimony are settled before they find the daylight. Michael Clayton shows how lawers, knowing the law (and how to avoid it), manipulate the justice by playing with witnesses,eliminating the evidence. Everything is just the case of money. It seems that a lawer does not only represent his client in the court, he also 'cleans up' and often gives the sentences himself by not allowing the case to be heard by the judge. The film shows that lawers not only balance on the boundary of law but that the cross it for money. Clayton uses his skill to avoid the justice because this is what his company and clients want. Law chamber ceases to be a bastion of help for wrongdoers - this is now the enterprice which wipes out the sins.

Very important motif in this film is the one with Arthur. After 6 years of negotiation for UNorth he discovers the toxicity of their product and reminds himself that he should be pursuing the truth and so... help the plaintiff. However, this cannot be approved by his superiors, who after being lawers for so many years ceased to see the truth, don't speak with and don't care about the victims to avoid remorse... He decides to fight anyway. This is taken by his collegues as a sign of insanity, the try to stiffle him just to get the money. Defalcation to the chamber is taken as a bigger sin than the defalcation to the justice. Furthermore, Arthur is the embodiment of humans' nature: how long can we live in a lie? Is the lawer different than other human in that he can lie longer without getting crazy? This film shows that lawers feel responsible for the actions for their client because if they win the case for them they will share the responsibility for the suffering of the claimants... however, not all the lawer let this feeling of guilt speak: here we have Karen, who smothers the guilt. Why does she do it? She sacrificed her entire life to be a lawer, she doesn't have a family and friends and so she defends the bad - because this bad is all she has.

A swindler is a higher form of a lawer. Law corporation are weak - they need to hire people who help them avoid the truth because if the case would go to the court without any previous intervention the truth would prevail. This tell us something sad about law chambers: they are incapable of defending their client without some tricks, e.g. wire-tapping or bulglary, but also something glorifying about the law administration: even the best commercial lawers would not defend and win every case if not the unlawful freaks. 

This is a good film for future commertial lawers. Do You really want to replace the happiness of watching your kinds grow with money and guilt? Do You want to discover that the only thing that can stimulate you to feel is gambling after hours of work? Do you want to find out one day that no-one is really around you because you despise your assistants, journalists and see your dad once a year? 


September 03, 2009

Rene

Writing about web page http://www.ioncinema.com/news/id/3409/helena_trestikovas_rene_wins_euro_film_academys_docu_of_the_year_award

This is not the kind of film you would see in every cinema. Directed by Helena Trestikova (former Czech minister of culture) won Leipzig Dok Festival and got the prize for the best documentary film from European Film Academy. Such films don't make global careers. I am not saying that alternative productions, nisze film projects are somehow better and that I watch all of them. Hell no. I just wanna say, that it is so easy to screen 'Prison Break' or another action film about a convict without going in depth into how is it like to be a criminal, what does it feel like to be in prison, what does live outside a cage mean for someone imprisoned...

When we see penology mostly in american films. Orange uniforms, prisoners who fight for domination in jail's hierarchy, conspire to escape from prison: this is how we know the prison form inside. Rene is a film which shows more realistic proportions - the victory of stagnation over action.

It goes on about Rene Plasil, a boy from pathological family, who at the age of 15 is thrown to prison for the first time. The story line is simple as his life: the periods in prison are temporarily 'suspended' for the times he is released. Released to commit another crime. Why? Because he does not know how to live differently. When young he had no authorities, parents didn't want him. Rejected, Rene wants to prove that he is worth loving and so, seeing no other way of 'earning' money he starts stealing. This cannot end up well. Continental legalism (so well shown in this film) shuts him for even smallest punishable deeds - e.g for stolen sticker worth 8k - which just confirms that he is not a bustard, but a scared rabbit among the woolves. He doesn't kill people or rape children, we cannot call him a cold criminal, however full-time one. Nonetheless, we somehow don't like him. We don't like him for all the opportunities he didn't use, for the fact that he doesn't want to change. We care about him because he seems to be somehow similar to us. He doesn't constitute the general, grey mass of criminals - he even doesn't like them, just as we don't enjoy being next to bad people. Rene is intelligent, characterized by analitical mind, can speak eloquently and understands the situation he is in. In the prison he writes two books, doesn't hang out with fellow convicts, enjoys writing and thinking on the windowsill. We find him similar and therefore, we regret all the unused chances for him. 'He could have done better' we think when we look at him.

Rene presents the very common phenomena among small criminals, most often robbers. When you go to the jail once, it will make you somehow like it. At the beginning you may consider being a convict a disgrace and shame but as the time flows, you get used to that. You cease to feel the lack of freedom. You go into a new environment and a new world: without gas and electricity bills, where everyone's alone (even if someone has a family outside, he still cannot enjoy it phisically in prison, so actually, he is lonely) and no-one is better than you. It resolves many problems which 'normal' people need to face in real life. However, this simmingly easy world addicts. The film shows that Rene was not planning a spectacular break-out - inversly, he was fully passive and closed for people. Everytime his sentence finished he had no plan for living, he wasn't attracted to decent job because he assumed that nothing good can happen to him. Subconciously he wanted to be back in prison, where he could write and not care. It didn't last long till he was back in prison...

To me, the film shows how a prison is closing its 'guests' in senselessness and reproducts the people to be its constant inhabitants. How a prison can be the escape, not the place you would like to escape from. It doesn't teach those people how to live outside, it just suspends their existence in the normal society but doesn't help to come back to healthy living. It even makes the situation harder: e.g. they allow convicts to make tatoos, which will be looked down upon by a emploer-to-be in a 'future' live.

What makes a criminal? Sometimes the incapacity to live like other people. What makes a prison are not only those who have no morality but also social runaways who committ crimes just to find themselves in jail.  

The film, from the legal point of view, should be 'applied' to judges. Punishment for small deeds is not always the best solution and we should scrutinize the reasons for perpetrating certain deeds. that's why I favor 'motif' as an influential factor in delivering the sentence. Although I am fully aware that then more people living on the verge of substistance would start stealing and then excuse themselves that they had no other option... ect. 

http://www.ioncinema.com/news/id/3409/helena_trestikovas_rene_wins_euro_film_academys_docu_of_the_year_award

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm3TxayRCjM


August 30, 2009

Hannibal

Is it because of Ridley Scott? Or is it because of Anthony Hopkins? Who made this film so fantastic that I forgot it is the sequel of another great film? Standing ovation for the person who dared to replace Jodie Foster with Julianne Moore... and for the 'pig scene'! I love when Lecter lifts up half dead Clarise (who notabene wants to throw him to jail) in the last moment and saves her from being eaten by people-eating pigs. Such scenes make a good movie: they show that there is no distinction on good and bad characters. Transcendency, multi-layer characters - this is what makes a human, even if we think that one deed (here, cannibalism) defines a person ('is he a cannibal? he must be mad!' - no, this is not how it works). Hannibal rescued Clarise and fought for the sake of world's esthetical purity (killing the guy from the orchestra who played cacophonically to make the sound more sublime? genius!): by uncovering those features, we re-evaluate him as a a person and our considerations on the punishment.

Dr. Lecter, the cannibal, escapes the punishment and hides in Florence to be a curator in one of the museums. In the meantime, one of his victims - the only one that survived: Mason Verger, builds a plan on how to take a revange on his torturer. What he needs is a decoy, an incentive for Lecter to come out the shadow... He uses Clarise Starling for that purpose. A woman who intrigued and amused Lecter when he was in jail. His love..? (I never know what did he mean when he said that he wonders how would Clarise taste - her meat or her... taste of sexual excitment) Verger finally manages to capture Lecter with the help of greedy policeman, Mr.Pazzi, and wants to enjoy this tortures (pig scene!) but Clarise (brave Clarise!), led by her inner sense of justice and the will to put Lecter on trial instead of meteing out punishment outside the court, breaks in in the last seconds, to save Hannibal from the shameful death. Then he saves her, they run away, in the mid-time Lecter eats the brain of some policeman and at the end... justice has to wait till the next sequel (will be?) because Lecter escapes. In general, this film's plot is about a chase: Verger's chase to get revange, FBI's chase to shut the criminal.  

From the legal standpoint, it brings one very important aspect I have never seen in film before: the case of denunciatory activities. This film shows a process of capturing criminals and how police involves normal citizens therein. Firstly, it exhibits how much work is put into it: rooms full of evidence, effort put into gathering data (Clarise co-operating with Italian police to get a recording), hours of individual and expert analyze, the importance of team-work and self-control during the action. However, the film also shows that it doesn't always fructify with seizing the criminal. That's why we have rewards for those people who help police, give a trace. On one hand, it is great, society sees that police engages all means available to make them save, they awake social mechanisms of co-operation, make people more sensible to what and who is around, but isn't giving rewards for trace just awarding spying, spreading fear? In the second option, we may think that government encourages people to be suspicious, anti-social, to remember all the time that somewhere among us, there is a very dangerous man who police failed to seize. This means that police is/was weak, cannot fully protect us, that it is unable enough that it asks unskilled civilians to help them. Furthermore, this resembles fascism a bit: a country wants to control its citizens by gratifying those who give them information about others. Should then the country pay for spying? Spying is yet one of the least desirable and liked features in the society... Where is the limit?

On the other side, doesn't police just mobilize people to protect ourselves against the crime? Of course, it exposes us to danger (yet, we should run away when we know a criminal is near by rather than to get in contact with him to get his fingerprints), but doesn't it link us more to police? We have the awareness, we know what to do when a criminal stands on our way. By giving awards for criminals we know that our taxes are really spent on society protection and crime reduction.

In addition, the film displays the difference between policemen's attitudes towards seizing criminals: for Clarise it is the case of justice and she doesn't care abour the reward, for Mr.Pazzi money is the main driving force to put Lecter into jail. To be trival: no group is homogenous, police is extremely prone to corrupt. However, is the fact that Pazzi had a young wife and needed money an excuse good enough for him to backslide his ideals - to seek a criminal and endanger the live of his informant for benefit rather than for professional satisfaction? Would it somehow change Clarise's choices if she wasn't single and had a starving family? When a policeman can claim additional money benefits for his work? Can he help to kill a wanted criminal if he knows that he will go to the jail anyway, just as Pazzi did?

--   

Before Madonna's concert in Poland, there was a vivid discussion on wherther is it permissable for a catholic to see this show. Somewhere on the side of this debate more intellectual discussion took place: can Madonna be classified as 'art' or as 'entertainment'? what is 'art'? One article on that amused me in particular. It was trying to convince that 'art' is when one needs to think over what one sees/hears, 'entertainment' is pleasure-making, squezeed off any reflection intellectual pulp who can be enjoyed by a person of average thinking ability. In spite of the fact that the author of the words periphrased used them to push that Madonna belongs to the first group (shameful!) I very much agree with the distinction. Moreover, applying this distinction to horror moovies in general I would say they are mostly to entertain. 'Painfully', but entertain. They are nothing more that to awake emotions, raise the level of adrenaline, so from the very onthological difference between emotions and 'hard intelligence' we are led to the conclusion that they do not inspire to think. Hannibal is a nice exception. Although it uses fear and disgust a lot, it is not based on emotions sensu stricto. It encourages to go inside them in an intellectual way. It grounds in logic, somehow spiritual, but still hardly mathematical - am I really against Lecter and what he does? aren't certain kinds of murder explainable? wouldn't I allow him to do it if I knew his motivations before? don't I actually like him..? - those are not only emotional because they entail some utilitarianism, don't you think?

Hannibal bewitched me.

--

http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/fugitives/fugitives.htm-- to keep You aware :)


August 09, 2009

Devil's Advocate

In my childhood my dad never knew how to treat me. Lots of men simply don't know what to do with a child when it cries. Of course, they can say (which they usually do) something like: stop crying,otherwise you will not get a candy. My dad followed a different path. He learned, that the only thing which makes me calm is to tell a story. Not suprisingly, fairy tails resouces he remembered dried up fairly quickly and so, he started to narrate movie plots for me. This is how 10 year old child knew almost all details of 'Indecent proposal', 'Basic Instinct' and was convinced that Steven Seagal is a worth mentioning actor. 'Devil's advocate' was, or actually, is the film I recall with some sentiment, then. It is not that I became piromaniac then but I still want to boil holy water by putting my finger therein... 

Let's settle one thing from the start - the title is misleading. The film in its two main plots doesn't need law to be what it is, it wouldn't change a lot if the main characters were e.g. economists. Kevin Lomax, the main character, needs not to be a lawer to make winning his obsession and devil, played by Al Pacino, to crave for antychrist. Mary Ann Lomax (Charlize Theron) could have been lonely in the relationship with her successful husband whatever profession did he perform, and so, could have been Kevin eager to betray his wife when he meets sexy lawer, if he wasn't a lawer. Nearly all the main problems in the film are not rooted in law and its performance but in difficoulties in relationships.

Law chamber and a court are just the background for never satisfied ambition of a young perfectionist, battlefield for desires. Why law then? I'd say: because it suits the popular idea that to win a case, a lawer needs to be specially gifted. Not everyone can be a lawer - it requires some inborn skill, tendency to manipulate others to conduct the ceremony of bullshit. This, on the other hand, is widely associated with some evil forces and so, a lawer is considered to serve rather evil than good. Furthermore, a lawer plays with the truth, sieves the doubt, ruffles minds, which are mainly demons' 'vices'. Moreover, in this film I see the reference to Dante's image of hell. Hierarchical structure of law chamber resembles floors of hell - more immoral cases you win, closer to devil you get. Modern law chambers work like corporations: you need to win, no matter the truth, to climb up the leather of promotion.

Nevertheless, the film shows one very important ethical problem, namely: is the defender's job to win the case or to do morally right thing? Of course, those two don't need to exclude each other but often they stay in opposition. Kevin says: "Lose? I don't lose! I win! I win! I'am a lawer, that's my job, that's what I do." With this approach a lawer can fullfill his ambition, be as competitive as he likes and no-one will blame him for his vanity. It works like a moral schield, he does need to spend time and burn himself emotionally to think about the amount of input he needs to bring into the case. On one hand, it speeds upproceedings and makes client-defender relations easier because purely professional, but on the other side, don't good lawers then have too much power on the justice administration? If they win a case without much moral consideration they become just robotes, machines to produce innocent people. However, isn't formalism inscribed into every profession? It would be just too hard make a spiritual connection with every client and also, isn't it judge's job to make a judgement? A lawer should start from tabula rasa,no bias and with the presumption of innosence. In addition, not getting too emotional about cases makes you get rid of guilt: yet, you never know if someone is really guilty or innocent and so, you don't mind so much being wrong. Nevertheless, although from the calculation formalism prevails with non-formal, emotional approach towards defended, the film shows that the right thing is to be moral and follow the will of the crowd who wants a pedophile to be sentenced. Eh, Hollywood... Perhaps it is somehow educational to indoctrinate people with the concept of lawers worshipping the 'higher good' but would they be happy if their lawer in their own case say "I will not defend You, it is not my job to serve the accused when I think society would not like it". I doubt people would be glad to hear it themselves, but when it comes to collective justice administration they prefer that lawers mirror the popular views and not represent the individual.

The other thing about this film (I have mentioned it before) is how it presents the profession of lawers. The best scene to ilustrate the demeaning character of the film in this regard is the one when John Millton asks Kevin Lowmax why, he thinks, is he 'that fucking good'. Later, he explains that it is not the skill he acquired, not the things he learned, but the inborn quality received with genes that made him win. This pretty much reproduces the stereotype that lawers need to bad guys not shaped by social circumstances and morality but led by internal drives which tell them to fulfill their need of power. What's even worse, a lawer (or actually: lawers, because John has also a daughter who takes commercial cases, as opposed to criminal, Kevin's cases) is a devil's child. Not only his lawer. Not only a subordinate with the possibility to change his mind and walk away from the darkness. The are connected forever which dramatically changes the situation and de-equibalances hell-heaven relationship. Hence, a lawer is somehow obliged towards evilness, defender needs to be a badass. Although, at the end, Kevin rejects father's proposals, he needs to kill himself for things to get better. It leaves the viewer with the impression that a lawer will not escape the dark side till he's dead. Unpleasant. 

It would be strange if the good wouldn't win in the film but I'd prefer it to win in more realistic manner. The film is generally cheesy and doesn't reach very deep. It delegates, however, devil to only one area of life - law, which is helpful if we think how many other issues could have been degradeted by him. He could have whispered into people's ears and suggest to committ sins. Instead he 'just' jurks off judges. 

Are law chambers the habitat of devil? Maybe, but it is all about free will then.    


July 15, 2009

Let's get it started

heya,

I know such a famous saying, that it is not important how one starts, but how one ends. Logically then, I should not care about the beginning here, but jump to the main, concrete part with no futher thinking. Notwithstanding, I consider beginnings to be of major importance. They give You a hunch, perhaps a thrill or good excuse for throwing a book/a moovie away. They allow to avert the embarassment, which You would experience reading a crap book further or watching a film which is not worth Your time.

I will start writing this blog with a cold entry. Although I read somewhere that only 7% of people want to make friends with people who look cold and reserved at the first sight, I will take my chance. I will be formal, impersonal and most probably ungrammatical.

"This blog is my, Veronika Lipiñska's, contribution to Criminal Law Film Project under the supervision of prof. Jackie Hodgson. I will devote my time and train linguistic disfunction to analyze and relate to the films I watched. Those will be mainly films which deal with the work of lawers, prosecutors, judges or police, so law themes are unavoidable. Also, this is the place for discussion. Perhaps, not a massive one because everyone knows I know everything the best but I will certainly allow some margin of criticism. Nonetheless, issues of law ethics, relations between lawers and clients, independence of judges, social perception of law system etc. will cross this blog. I hope they will be also backed up with some theoretical, booky deliberations and filtered trough the sieve of logic and reason. Enjoy."

So, this was my start, now we have to climb higher.     


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