Perhaps better known for his early career in photojournalism or his austere, yet sublime ethnographic portraitures of the Sahara desert in such docufiction films as Captive of the Desert and Un Homme sans l’occident, Raymond Depardon continues in a similar vein as his earlier exposition into the domestic justice system of Délits flagrants in The Tenth District Court: Moments of Trial. Having been given the rare privilege to film (and use in excerpts) the proceedings of a Paris courtroom presided by an experienced and no-nonsense judge named Michèle Bernard-Requin, Depardon’s engaging, animated collage of drunk drivers, harassing ex-lovers, pickpockets, public nuisances, and marijuana dealers is a thoughtful and unprejudiced glimpse into the swift, cursory, and often frustrating prosecution of throwaway petty offenses: defiant motorists who refuse to acknowledge their transgression and realize the potential for tragedy in their reckless, willful actions; mentally ill offenders whose poor, often undereducated immigrant families are unable to seek proper help; undocumented aliens who continue to amass meaningless ten year immigration bans into the country. In the end, what emerges from Depardon’s unobtrusive, yet incisive gaze is not merely a lighthearted and salaciously humorous snapshot of nuisance crimes, but a complex and intelligently observed portrait of human frailty, self-righteousness, ignorance, marginalization, and disenfranchisement.
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