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Monthly Archives: February 2014

In my quest to rid myself of rigidly formulaic American media, I was shocked to come across something from France: Engrenages (Translated as “Spiral” in English).

There is a terrific French TV police series in France called Engrenages (the first four seasons are available on Netflix here in the USA).  In addition to containing plenty of exciting action (I have to tell you that it shows rather grisly macabre crime and forensic scenes), the series delineates the different and challenging ways under which violent crimes are investigated in Paris by the police judiciare, which are handled by an investigating magistrate who reviews the allegations made through private interviews and decides whether or not to move the process forward to prosecution.  Such a system is essentially the opposite of what we Americans, and our great cousins across the sea, England use; that is an adversarial system based on common law versus the Napoleonic Code in France (which has its origins dating back to the Roman Empire).  The Napoleonic Code (also known as civil law) is still in action and it makes for fascinating viewing compared to the American criminal justice system as depicted on TV or in the movies.

The characters are very complex as well.  The sheer brutality the French police can get away with while being supervised by a French magistrate is scandalous to any American viewer.  Virtually all interrogations start with some sort of beating and there is no such thing as a Miranda warning.  The main characters are:

Police Captain Laure Berthaud.  She is a capable Paris criminal police officer who is very tenacious and tough as nails using questionable methods.  Devoted to her work, she is very attached to her male subordinates and would do (and does) anything to protect them when they make a mistake.

Assistant Prosecutor Pierre Clément.  A young magistrate with a promising career, he believes in his profession and in the integrity of justice.  That said, his success and his righteousness provoke the hostility of his superior, the powerful Republic Prosecutor of Paris.  He is close friends with Captain Berthaud and Judge Roban but also, more surprisingly, with Joséphine Karlsson (my favorite).

Judge François Roban.  An experienced investigating magistrate (juge d’instruction), solitary and hardworking, he is cold and even cruel with suspects and witnesses, but he is also aware that his job has nearly destroyed his life and the people he loved.

Lawyer Joséphine Karlsson.  She is my favorite character of all hands down, a clever, beautiful and ruthless young lawyer who is always looking for cases that will earn her the maximum amount of fame and money.  She finds it exhilarating to defend monsters and does not hesitate to cross or even double-cross legal and ethical lines to get what she wants.  What comes around goes around however, as her shady dealings and her hate for police eventually gets her into trouble.

The first four seasons are on Netflix and a fifth and sixth have been ordered in France.  As someone who is in the legal profession, I find the show nothing short of fascinating.  Engrenages makes American cop shows look like a joke.  In addition, the French language sounds like music and is a pleasure to hear.  Engrenages is also worth watching for the sake of appreciating the significant cultural differences between Europe and America.  I will tell you this, while watching Engrenages you get the feeling that the Puritans’ legacy is alive and well in the U.S.A.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Outlaw Jose Wales (1976): the film that spawned two bad things for Client Eastwood: Sandra Locke and the Director’s Guild’s new legislation, known as “the Clint Eastwood Rule.”

I don’t like westerns that much.  There are exceptions of course—Eastwood’s the Man With No Name series, the Wild Bunch and a couple of others but that is really about it.  Then there is the Outlaw Josey Wales, a western that is near the top of that genre’s food chain in my book.  Eastwood directed part of the film (the initial director Phillip Kaufman was fired) and starred as the Outlaw Josey Wales (as well as his son playing a small role) along with soon to be longtime lover Sandra Locke (a big mistake there)—but more on that later.

The Outlaw Josey Wales was an adaptation of Forrest Carter’s 1973 novel The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales (republished, as shown in the movie’s opening credits, as Gone to Texas).

 

The story is about Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer, who is driven to revenge for the murder of his wife and son by a band of pro-Union Jayhawkers—Senator Lane’s Redlegs from Kansas.  Seeking revenge Wales joins a guerilla group of pro-Confederate Missouri Bushwhackers.  Being on the losing side, when it is all over the group is promised amnesty.  But Wales was not in the war for the politics, but revenge, and not having succeeded he refuses to surrender.  Luckily Wales avoids a trap in which his compatriots are massacred by the same bunch that killed his family.

Well this puts Wales on the run from Union militia and bounty hunters.  Along the way, despite wishing to be left alone, he accumulates a rag-tag group of followers including an old Cherokee named Lone Watie, a young Navajo woman, and an elderly woman from Kansas and her granddaughter (Sandra Locke) whom Wales rescued from Comancheros.

 

In Texas, Wales and his companions are cornered in a ranch house which is fortified to withstand Indian raids.  The Redlegs attack but are gunned down by the defenders. Wales, despite being out of ammunition, pursues the fleeing Captain Terrill on horseback.  When he catches him, Wales dry fires his pistols through all twenty–four empty chambers before stabbing Terrill with his own cavalry sword.

 

Wounded and recovering at the bar in Santa Rio, Wales finds Fletcher with two Texas Rangers.  The locals at the bar successfully hide his identity and convince the Rangers that Wales died in Monterrey, Mexico.  Fletcher pretends he does not recognize Wales, and says that he will go to Mexico and look for Wales himself.  Seeing the blood dripping on Wales’s boot, Fletcher says that he will give Wales the first move, because he “owes him that.” Wales rides off.

 

This is a great film that had some not so great long term consequences for Eastwood.  First, the film began a close relationship between Eastwood and Locke that would last six films and the beginning of a romance going into the late 1980’s.  This relationship would cause some serious headaches later for Eastwood eventually resulting in a lawsuit that ended up in my law school contracts casebook.  In 1995, Locke sued Eastwood for fraud, alleging that he had paid Warner Bros. to keep her out of work since the studio had rejected all of the 30 or more projects she proposed, and never assigned her to direct any of their in-house projects (maybe they just sucked).  In 1996, just minutes before a jury was to render a verdict in Locke’s favor, Eastwood agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount.  The outcome of the case, Locke said, sent a “loud and clear” message to Hollywood “that people cannot get away with whatever they want to just because they’re powerful.”  This case appears in law school textbooks as an example of breaching the implied duty of good faith in every contract.  In my opinion, she deserved nothing because I think all palimony cases are nonsense (palimony was the underlying basis for her claims).

 

The second unflattering item for Eastwood that came out of this great film occurred when, on October 24, 1975, Kaufman was fired at Eastwood’s command by producer Bob Daley.  This caused an outrage amongst the Directors Guild of America and other important Hollywood executives, since the director had already worked hard on the film, including completing all of the pre-production work.  Heavy pressure was put on Warner Brothers and Eastwood to back down, but their refusal to do so resulted in a $60,000 fine (a fair amount of money in the mid-seventies).  This led to the Director’s Guild passing new legislation, known as ‘the Clint Eastwood Rule’ in which they reserved the right to impose a major fine on a producer for discharging a director and replacing that director with himself.

Besides these two unflattering matters that arose out of the film, the Outlaw Josey Wales is some of Eastwood’s best work.  It combines some of his “man with no name” characteristics with a more complete human being—though never taking the mystique out of Wales.  The movie also has some very funny scenes in it, an unusual trait found in most westerns.  Though long, the Outlaw Josey Wales gets a worth-the-time-to-watch thumbs up from me.

 

Next time a-to-be-determined film I hate.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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