Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Drunk Lawyers

There seems to be a sub-genre of movies that feature drunk or downtrodden lawyers taking on cases and winning. This is sometimes associated with the “courtroom” film where reality is unfolded according to specific rules, coloured by human dynamics. And this is under the larger branch of the detective narrative, that one where there is a special agreement with the viewer about rules.

Since the late 50s, detective>courtroom>drunk lawyer movies have been about playing with the rules instead of using them. This is among the first.

A case passes through the world of two slackers, hardly leaving a dent. It is never resolved. The ambiguities are subtle but significant.

There are some interesting things here. The first is how dated is the sexuality. This was considered risqué in its time. Lee Remick was considered dangerously sexy. How tame that is now.

There are other weaknesses, the hackneyed portrayal of the drunk lawyer. The mishandling of languid pacing. But there is a good performance from Stewart, perhaps his best. The integration of music and vision is still among the very best we have, and the music itself still snaps if Remick does not.

You should see this though because of how masterfully the scenes are staged, Even the courtroom scenes, — traditionally as difficult as staging family meals — have some novelty, now much copied. Compare this to the better acting but much less imaginative staging of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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