Not that good. It's an interesting sneaky peek inside shut-doors
trial room, and the passive close ups of the offenders, lawyers,
attorney and judge, give a certain anti-dramatic "naked truth"
to it. But these are only minor dismeanor, and the hearrings are
largely edited so I felt frustrated by the missing information.
I'm not sure this could appeal to a foreign audience unfamiliar
with french laws. However the humor is universal as the woman judge
condescendingly ridicule the defendants who are dumbed down by fear
of this impressively staged justice.
A thematic TV documentary inserted in a debate with guests and
journalists would do, but a stand-alone theatrical piece seems much
boring for an audience not related to these cases, let alone foreigners
to french law.
To add to your little audience study, the one I attended to, mainly
french, was rather studious, like myself, aware of the non-fictional
aspect dealing with real people's lives. We had a couple of similar
repetitive laughters too, but some of the material is definitely
comical by essence, whether it is to mock the defendant or the judge,
justified in both case.
Personaly I grew more confident in laughing as the film progressed,
conscious of the over-dramatic farce staged behind closed doors,
a spectacle we are never given the chance to witness without being
in the position of the humiliated culprit. In the second half I
was laugging at the grotesque exaggeration of this disturbing serie
of petty arrangement between people obviously denying responsability
of their acts, and totally oblivious of the official procedure already
engaged, trying to backpedal, lie and smooth talk the judge into
dissmissing the case.
It didn't strike me how the defendant benefited the same low angle
framing, but I assume a lot of this stylish purity is due to the
narrow leeway left to the filmmaker by the court, which never allowed
a camera before. The footage is largely edited, it feels like a
digest of highlights, skimming through with a fastforward remote
control. I'm not sure his idea to compile pairs of cases with pairs
of verdits was truly helping. Let's not forget the people all agreed
and signed to allow filming their case, they are self-conscious
and the "movie-star" effect plays a certain role in their
behavior. No doubt to feel the presence of the neutral filmmaker
on their side in this court full of unknown people (who all know
each other and are paid to punish you), was a welcome external eye,
in a maybe illusionary hope to keep for the record the injustice
falling upon them. Most of the cases show a definite sense of denial
and injustice, even when obviously guilty (the pickpocket who pretends
to be stalked by the policeman, the knife holder man who takes notes
and did a preliminary study of law to teach the judge!...).
This is scary to wonder why we're laughing, and what we are laughing
at, like you and Girish discussed. But I'm not sure the form this
film takes nor the subject used was the best material to make this
demonstration. Also the 2 last cases with open ended outcome felt
more frustrating than seducting to me. Why not cutting out all verdicts
then? or keeping them all for the end? It was too confusing to make
a meaningful statement anyway. More intertitles commentaries all
along, to precise context at hand, would have made the film much
more educational if it was intented to.
It's reality, not a game. I wanted to appreciate the judicial procedure
of my country, to see what happens, what decisions are made, not
to play the role of the judge. I know these things are common things
on american TV, either real-TV or fictionous-reconstitution, maybe
you are more prepared for such "voyeur" experience.