Monday, March 3, 2008

Michael Clayton: The Only Thing That Could Be More Unrealistic Than Its Portrayal of Bipolar Mania is If I Suggested that I Bear Any Resemblance to George Clooney (although I look a little like Tilda Swinton by the end of a 100 minute class)

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Alan has challenged me to address his speculations.

I didn't want to see Michael Clayton, even though I heard it was good.  I have never seen Erin Brockovitch or A Civil Action.  Yes, it's true that I was the general counsel of a large chemical company, and that's no doubt the reason.  I have steadfastly refused to sit through any so-called "entertainment" in which I (or someone like me) is the villain ever since my daughter Arielle (now a grad student in theater at Columbia) was in the 8th grade, and wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a play called Lily's Life. This was the touching story of a girl with cystic fibrosis, in which the incomparably evil character was the FATHER, played by Arielle herself, since she had just fired the boy actor she had originally cast.  I can still remember, when his utter venality came out, everybody in the audience turned around and stared at me with "you son-of-a-bitch" in their eyes.  (What's worse is that Lily's Life played for years after on the local access channel of the Birmingham, Michigan school district.)

But Matt, my son, was home, and in a moment of father-son bonding, I agreed to watch Michael Clayton with him.

It was a good movie.  But I have low standards, namely whether I fall asleep or not.  Others, as Alan points out, have better points about the technical legal issues than I.  Two things jumped out at me.  (1) I thought Tilda Swinton's portrayal of the angst and distinction between the private moments of preparation and the public performance were accurate in an atmospheric sort of way, and (2) I have had experience dealing with people who are in manic stages of bipolar disorder, and there's no way that Tom Wilkinson went from being naked at a deposition (including running around in the parking lot) and screaming "I am Shiva, the Goddess of Death" to getting on an airplane and making it back to New York where he is together enough to buy fourteen loaves of bread.  In real life, even if he makes it to the airport, he's locked up before he goes through security.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2008/03/michael-clayt-1.html

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Comments

Re: "I am Shiva, the Goddess of Death." That *is* messed up, mania or no mania. Shiva is male, not female and the goddess of death is Kali or Durga, as the fierce aspect of Devi, the consort or wife of Shiva.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 3, 2008 3:31:01 PM

You are the greatest, Patrick. Please keep reading us and commenting! Every comment is fun and welcome.

Western assumption that anyone named ending in A must be female? Same problem a lot of male Sashas have.

Maybe the manic guy's assumption is that the real decisionmaker behind Shiva is a woman, and ultimately the death or revenge part had a woman's hand in it. A la bring me the head of John the Baptist.

Posted by: Childress | Mar 4, 2008 9:45:34 AM

With the cost of making the conversation on Western assumptions and mania moot, the actual line goes "I am Shiva, the god of Death." It shows up in the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHckVQm4cW0

I found that Tilda did a fantastic job and was disappointed by how little of a part she actually played in the film. True, the limited appearance accentuated her character, but still, every moment was worth it.

Posted by: Ed Doherty | Mar 4, 2008 7:24:19 PM

With the cost of making the conversation on Western assumptions and mania moot, the actual line goes "I am Shiva, the god of Death." It shows up in the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHckVQm4cW0

I found that Tilda did a fantastic job and was disappointed by how little of a part she actually played in the film. True, the limited appearance accentuated her character, but still, every moment was worth it.

Posted by: Ed Doherty | Mar 4, 2008 7:26:53 PM

Ed,

Nonetheless, Shiva is not simply the "god of death," as the aniconic symbol under which he is most often worshipped is the linga. Early conceptions of Shiva accord him the epithets "Lord of the Animals" and "Mahayogi." It is true that perhaps his best known iconic representation is that of Nataraja, King of the Dance, meaning the cosmic "dance" associated with his creative, destructive and emancipatory powers. Yet death as such, as I noted above, is best associated with Kali-Durga. Not without sufficient (if not ample) reason is Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty's brilliant book on Shiva entitled, Siva: The Erotic Ascetic (1981 [1973]). And Stella Kramrisch's classic tome on the metaphysics, ontology and myths of Shiva, The Presence of Siva (1981), should likewise quickly disabuse one of the notion that Siva is the "god of death." In short, even if the gender is right, the appellation is not.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 4, 2008 10:19:16 PM

So let me get this straight: lawyer in big firm shakes down partners for 80k, other lawyer runs naked in parking lot after depo where he lays out opponent's case, GC lawyer murders one of them in cold blood and attempts same to other, all to cover up company's inculpatory memo withheld in discovery after cancering over 400 family farmers. None of this is inaccurate or controversial to Ed and Patrick about the *legal profession,* but they debate whether a quote from the movie is accurate and mythologically correct? Man, the American Bar Association needs to hire a PR firm. Oh, spoilers alert.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Mar 5, 2008 5:46:17 AM

Alan,

In my case I dont't know enough about the legal profession to have anything of interest to say (i.e., whether the portrayal is accurate or suggestive, etc.), so I simply commented on something I did know a little about. It's just a blog, after all, so I'll hope you forgive me.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 5, 2008 6:12:25 AM

Nah, Patrick, I was just messing with you, sort of like how Zeus posed as Amphitryon to sleep with his girlfriend (oh, as if the girlfriend did not know and would have turned down Zeus).

btw: Just a blog? Just a BLOG? JUST A BLOG????

Posted by: Alan Childress | Mar 5, 2008 6:32:55 AM

I was hoping as much, but this medium is not always conducive to clear communication. Of course there are blogs and there are blogs, and yours is one of the latter, which is why I routinely read it (although not for the first time--at home or at the polls--does my vote count for nothing or next-to-nothing).

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 5, 2008 6:47:37 AM

Alan -

It's just not that interesting to debate the routine. ;)

Patrick -

Thank you for fleshing out the whole deity thing. I would guess that the writers either intentionally made it an uneducated statement or themselves just threw that in there because, hey, it *sounds* cool. As it is in the movie, it's just a melodramatic statement rather than reaching for something deeper.

PS: Sorry for the double-post. I grumble when others do it, but now I am become one of them!

Posted by: Ed Doherty | Mar 5, 2008 10:32:57 AM

So, does Jeff, or does Jeff NOT look anything at all like George Clooney?

Just askin'.

Warm Regards,

James.

Posted by: James Mason | Mar 8, 2008 6:58:52 PM

No, he doesn't look at all like George Clooney. But he does bear a striking resemblance to Anthony Pellicano, the "onetime private eye to the stars." See latest story here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pellicano5mar05,0,1072802.story

And for a picture (Jeff looks a bit more fit and far less grizzled, but I still think there's an uncanny resemblance): http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-pellicano_iuv0xmnc,0,7476299.photo

Jeff should audition for Pellicano's role in the upcoming movie.

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Mar 9, 2008 1:15:57 PM

I am Shiva, God of Death.

The act of Michael Clayton is indeed in line with the role of Shiva in Hindu Mythology but the words do not seem to convey this quite correctly.
Shiva is the "destroyer of evil" or "brings on the death of evil" in this respect Michael Clay ton and the movie writer were correct to invoke Shiva.

Hope this claifies for a fuller appreciation of Shiva's role in the mythology

Posted by: AK | Mar 20, 2008 11:30:30 AM

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