Film Review: Le Procès Goldman

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Film Review: Le Procès Goldman
Like the recent Anatomy of a Fall, Le Procès Goldman (The Goldman Case) is a courtroom drama about a murder. In the former, the defendant is a German living in France, while the latter is about the son of Polish WWII survivors, who calls himself a “Polish Jew born in France.” Both treat the ambiguity surrounding an unnatural death. While I felt satisfied after watching Anatomy that I’d picked up insights into the French legal system and the predicament of a foreign resident, Le Procès Goldman left me uneasy, although the film, which takes place almost entirely in the courtroom, is riveting from start to finish. Who was Pierre Goldman? Though a long-time French resident, I’d never heard of him. What struck me was that he was the half-brother of Jean-Jacques Goldman, a pop-rock icon, and friend of Régis Debray, a one-time revolutionary and comrade-in-arms of Che Guevara. Goldman was a man of the left, whose parents were dedicated communists (his mother was expelled from France and lived out her life in Poland). He was a bully-boy for extreme-left student groups, then active as a militant for radical organizations. He went to Bolivia along with Debray, and also to Cuba. And then … ? Le Procès Goldman © Moonshaker Many militants, like Debray, reintegrated normal life, led comfortable lives and entered the French elite. Goldman was at the opposite extreme. Unstable and violent, his life spiralled into so-called banditisme. He confessed to robbing several shops, and never retracted the confession. But why did he commit the robberies? In the 1980s, radicals from the Black Liberation Army and Weather Underground committed a robbery of a Brink’s truck that turned into a bloody botch, but was clearly meant to finance their “resistance movement.” Goldman seems to have acted alone. Did he too mean to restart the revolution? Unfortunately, the director, Cedric Kahn, doesn’t seem interested in exploring the question. Instead Kahn, like Justine Triet with Anatomy, shows us the workings of a French courtroom. It seems like both ritual and theater of a curious sort. Lawyers question witnesses and then abruptly turn to the defendant to pose a question. At one point a juror expresses an opinion. Spectators erupt to support one side or deride the other, oblivious to the president of the panel of judges. It’s fascinating to watch, so different from an American trial. However, we have only one person’s view of the proceedings, the director’s. Le Procès Goldman. ©-Moonshaker Kahn films cleanly, with an assured hand, and brings out brilliant performances from the actors, even those in minor roles. The movie is dominated by Arieh Worthalter as Goldman (he was also in Serre Moi Fort, directed by the actor Mathieu Amalric, and Vincent Paronnaud’s Hunted). His constantly changing moods, punctuated by moments of glum stillness, make for a positively bipolar performance. There are two dramatic movements in the film. Witnesses, including passersby (an off-duty policeman who was shot), and the relative of a shop employee, give incriminating eye-witness testimony about the scene of the two murders. On cross-examination, Ten Angry Men-style, they admit to inconsistencies and deficiencies in their accounts. This makes us appreciate how cloudy any testimony can be: Imagine going about your everyday life when a crime happens unexpectedly, shockingly. Few of us are ready to mentally record the goings-on.
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Lead photo credit : Le Procès Goldman poster ©Advitam Distribution

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.