By the same token though doesn't it suggest also that there are people out there not beaten by the system who can take control and do good which is more than can be said of Preminger's other dablings with the law in Hurry Sundown and especially Advise and Consent where nobody keeps their ethics if it benefits somebody.
Yes, definitely it suggests that a decent person is still around, though I find that adds to the sense of arbitrariness - it is just the luck of the draw that you get a rare, principled person. Which is kind of more worrying in highlighting the contrast than there being a feeling that the Judge is just one of many. Instead I get the feeling that the James Stewart and George C. Scott characters are more abundant!
Although with such emphasis placed on the opacity of the characters in the film (in order to 'place us in the role of the juror', which I don't hesitate to say is a fascinating concept, and I think it is interesting to see that applied just as much to every character in the film as to those on trial or on the witness stand) that makes it rather difficult to know whether the Judge is being portrayed as the nicest character in the film in service of a point about the decency of judges in general, or whether it could just be because the filmmakers (as suggested in the extra features) were in awe of Joseph Welch's real life comments at the McCarthy hearings ("Have you no sense of decency?"
) and that affected the rather idealised portrayal of the Judge that he was portraying in the film. Is a wider point being made, or a specific one, or was a conscious point intended to be made at all? One of the best aspects, and also the most troubling one, is that this isn't made clear.
Does it matter that the wife who was attacked frequents bars dressed provocatively? Not particularly - just as long as she buttons up during the trial so she doesn't give the game away.
Are you suggesting this should matter?
It obviously matters enough to Stewart's lawer Biegler to admonish Remick's Mrs Manion for immediately hanging around bars, along with not visiting her husband in jail for days, since that is giving out the wrong message which could hand ammunition to the prosecution if they caught wind of it. It is the practicality of giving that advice which is kind of frightening - the idea that someone recognises the problems with that behaviour but only from the point of view of how that will affect their case. It could be seen positively as Biegler not getting involved in other people's business, yet it also exposes the performance aspect of the trial, almost as if Biegler is already formulating that scene where he gets Mrs Manion to stand up, take off her hat and do a twirl so that he can show off her beauty at the exact time of his choice. It feels as if it exposes that understanding the motivations, or thought processes, of the actual people in the case are not really important, instead it is about manipulating them into certain jury-pleasing stances. Which all leads into the actual result refreshingly not being a turning point for anyone, or a grand climax, instead just as arbitrary as anything else - the moment when one side or the other finds out whether their tactics have worked.
Does it matter that the soldier killed a man in cold blooded murder? Not particularly - just as long as he can give the right reasons for his action.
The 'cold-blooded' aspect is certainly up for debate- there is question about whether or not the murder was premeditated, but I don't think there's any question that Gazzara's character is a hot blooded man who acted on the spur of the moment.
This I think is a turning point in the trial - the whole basis of Biegler's defence of Mr Manion is that he was acting with 'irresistible urge' i.e. temporary insanity because with an hour having elapsed between Mrs Manion coming back from being assaulted and Mr Manion going to kill Barney Quill, the whole defence of having acting in a hot headed manner and shooting Quill is not tenable. So anything that suggests that Manion is being driven temporarily insane (such as bringing in a convict to report on what he has overheard), can ironically only serve to strengthen his case and ironically work against Dancer having called that witness (which is presumably why he describes it as being a 'last resort' witness, since all the convict serves to bring to the case is the idea that Manion has duped Biegler and that when he gets off he will beat his wife for her intransigence, both elements which, while being juicy details, bear no relevance on the case at hand - although they help to fill in a few gaps (or do they?) for the audience).
It is a misstep that is equivalent to Dancer mistaking Miss Pilant's relationship with Quill as a sexual, sugar daddy-style one (when it is a real daddy one!). Otherwise until these moments Dancer and Biegler seem totally equivalent, with each anticipating each other's moves (suggesting this is a highly codified game, again without too much focus on the individual characters involved in specific cases) and not being surprised when they use them due to their preparation. I particularly like Scott's performance in the scene where Stewart brings up the precedent case of 'irresistible urge' that justifies his defence - while Dancer's companion is at first annoyed by the inane chatter about fly fishing between the Judge and Biegler and then surprised by this turn of events, Dancer is instead quiet, suggesting that he knows where this is going and was already familiar with that precedent case, and while hoping that Biegler would not have picked up on it, they now just proceed on from Biegler having scored that point. Though likely the prosecution would have been happy if the other party had not been so on the ball with regard to old law cases!
Here and in your previous point, it's key that as pragmatic as Stewart is, the movie carefully contrasts him to the evidently far nastier Dancer- he spends quite a lot of time trying to build a 'she was asking for it' case about the possible rape, and I have very little doubt that he would happily push a prisoner to give false testimony
I think you have a point (I particularly like that scene where Dancer is questioning Mrs Manion and slowly moves ever closer to her during the questioning. In one of the interviews on the disc this is suggested to be like a seduction of Mrs Manion but to me, especially in the way that the shot feels very much from her point of view, there felts like more of a sense of overwhelming intimidation to that scene. Of pushing her to the edge), yet the thing that makes me see Biegler and Dancer as equivalent is Biegler's treatment of Miss Pilant - that in order to get his client off he is not above getting the daughter of a murdered man on the stand to get her to give damning testimony that her father could have been a rapist. (I think it is not for nothing that her name is an anagram of 'Pliant'!)
(EDIT: Compare this to the treatment of the mother in John Ford's Young Mr Lincoln being pressurised by the prosecution to say which of her two sons she saw holding the knife used in a murder until Lincoln steps in and puts a stop to the questioning, asking the Judge to not force a mother into choosing which of her sons will live and which will die)
The most disturbing thing about the film for me is that it really doesn't seem to matter whether or not the wife was raped or was willing (or whether she does or does not wear panties on her visits to a bar). Or whether the husband shot Quill for honour reasons to defend a violated wife, or out of anger at a wife's infidelity, or even just out of an 'irresistible impulse'. Or whether Quill was an actual rapist or was led on. Or whether Miss Pilant is left wondering if her father was a rapist who got what he deserved, or an adulterer who was murdered. These aren't questions that the law is concerned with - they are too complex to be dealt with in a courtroom definitively. So they get reduced to an abstract, performance based level to allow the law to deal with it (usually based on previous precedent rather than on a case-by-case basis).
I agree that the film is like Rashomon, but I think Anatomy of a Murder is both better than, and far more disturbing in its implications than the Kurosawa film (The Kurosawa film, for one thing, never loses sight of those people actually involved in the case, even if they all have different perspectives on the events. Although Rashmon does bring up the idea that the best actor has to be the one telling the truth, only to continually dash that notion. Anatomy of a Murder instead treats those directly involved in the murder case as pawns in the machinations of a larger organisation, even if the Manion's also seem to be playing another private game of their own)