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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) offers perhaps the most complex study of the relationship between film and reality in all of Woody Allen's work, not excepting the lighter treatment of the theme in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). In Crimes and Misdemeanors, film and reality interact on multiple levels ranging from the commercial to the philosophical. They also interact through a blend of genres that includes the noir crime drama, romantic comedy, social satire, and the documentary. Along the way the film enthusiast is treated to a dazzling variety of interwoven film clips from Hollywood genre films, darkly humorous newsreel footage of a blustering Mussolini, and arresting talking head interviews with fictional philosopher Louis Levy (played by Martin S. Bergmann, the renowned clinical psychologist and author of The Anatomy of Loving). Allen uses these film-within-film conceits to dramatize a central Dostoevskian (and 20th century) theme: the consequences of a god- absent universe.

    A crucial film/reality intersection occurs in the final sequence, a first meeting between the central characters of the paralleled "crime" and "misdemeanor" plots: Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a highly successful late middle-aged ophthalmologist and Cliff Stern (Woody Allen), an obscure documentary filmmaker whose one claim to fame is an "Honorable Mention" at the Cincinnati Film Festival. Aware that Cliff is a director of sorts, Judah pitches him a murder mystery plot based on recent experiences in his "real life." Ironically, Cliff rejects Judah's plot as too implausible, shapeless, and amoral to work as a movie even though it is a large part of the movie that Woody Allen as director has just presented, a twist familiar to viewers of Robert Altman's The Player (as well as to readers of Borges, Nabokov, and a slew of lesser post-modern fiction writers).

    The meeting between Judah and Cliff takes place at a wedding celebration for the daughter of Ben (Sam Watterston), a rabbi who is Judah's long-time friend and Cliff's brother-in-law. Previously, the only link between the two plots comes from Ben's repeated visits to Judah's office for monitoring of a progressive eye-disease. In an early scene in the doctor's darkened examination room, Ben listens to Judah's confession of marital infidelity, financial indiscretion, and fears of exposure from his unstable mistress, Dolores (Angelica Huston), who refuses to be dumped after a several year relationship. What Judah does not confess is the means he uses to resolve his dilemma: the murder of Dolores by a hit man hired by Judah's underworld-connected businessman brother, Jack. For a time, like Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, Judah suffers agonies of guilt for initiating the taking of a human life, but eventually he "awakens as if from a dream" to find that rather than being punished he continues to prosper, a perverse irony that seems to belie his religious father's conviction that "the eyes of God are always watching us" and that "whether in the Old Testament or Shakespeare – 'murder will out.'"

    The Woody Allen character, Cliff, is an unsung and largely uncompensated maker of intellectual documentaries. An obsessive film buff, he prefers to spend most afternoons at the movies with his niece and most evenings in his low-budget cutting room rather than face the reality of his unhappy marriage and nowhere career. Alan Alda plays Cliff's other brother-in-law and nemesis, Lester, a thoroughly obnoxious but prominent writer and producer of TV sitcoms. The antagonism between these two characters is sharpened when Lester, as a favor to his sister, hires Cliff to shoot a TV documentary about Lester himself for a "Creative Minds" PBS-style series. The show's Associate Producer, Halley (Mia Farrow), becomes the object of a courtship rivalry between Cliff and Lester. Since Cliff is married and Lester is an obvious philanderer, this romantic triangle forms the "misdemeanor" segment of the film's plot - adultery and licentiousness having long been stricken from the contemporary urban world's list of cardinal sins.

    Cliff's work on the Lester documentary allows Allen to satirize the TV-centered culture that lionizes a figure like Lester but offers scant recognition or reward to the subject of his documentary work-in-progress, Professor Levy (or, by extension, to Cliff himself). Although he has some moments, Lester is an easily deflated buffoon - a self-satisfied font of reductive and repeated bombast ("if it bends it's funny; if it breaks it's not funny.") Unfortunately, he can only be deflated in art. In "real life" Lester not only has the power to keep filling the airwaves with pap, but to fire Cliff and - most depressingly - to seduce and marry his dream girl, Halley. If Judah finds the absence of moral order comforting, Cliff is totally nonplussed by reality's harsh artlessness, but then, as Judah advises him: "If you want a happy ending, you should go see a Hollywood movie."

    Despite its plot resolution, Crimes and Misdemeanors is rescued from utter nihilism by its ritual comic ending and by its final shot of the now completely blind Ben dancing happily with his daughter. Despite the literal place of darkness he has entered, the rabbi embodies the affirmative element in Professor Levy's vision, eloquently expressed in these words: "Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying and even try to find joy from simple things, like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more." Alas, the uplifting imagery of the film's ending is counterbalanced, though not thoroughly undercut, by the recollection of Professor Levy's personal response to "the indifferent universe": he exits it via self-defenestration, leaving only a suicide note that reads "I've gone out the window."

    Crimes and Misdemeanors is as close to pure tragicomedy as Woody Allen gets anywhere in his work, and it is one of his most essential and finest films.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) was the masterful culmination of Woody Allen's dramatic period in the 80's, in which he made brilliant movies like "Hannah and Her Sisters", "Another Woman" or "September". In these movies he tried his best to play with Ingmar Bergman's narrative and aesthetic preoccupations, which are incidentally also Allen's. He has also always been successful at incorporating wit and comedy into the dramatic arc. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors" he confronts two philosophies of life with each other. And once the two story lines are set into motion, almost every scene plays off the theme of the movie.

    We meet Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a successful and beloved doctor. Coming home with his family from a gala, he finds a letter from his mistress Dolores (Angelica Huston); addressed to his wife. Judah meets Dolores in her apartment, where she explains her deep dissatisfaction with the current situation. She wants Judah on her own, whereas he feels that this affair is getting out of hand and wants to end it. Consecutively Dolores begins to threaten him with uncovering a fund theft he was involved in and with admitting their affair to his wife. Judah cannot see out of this predicament and calls up his Mafioso brother (Jerry Orbach) to help him getting rid of her.

    Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) on the other hand is a struggling documentary filmmaker, married to a woman who stopped having sex with him a year ago and who would rather see him work than not. So Cliff goes against his principles and takes the job kindly given to him by his wife's brother Lester (Alan Alda), a millionaire TV producer. Cliff has to follow Lester around New York to document his visions for a TV program. On the job he meets Halley Reed (Mia Farrow), an associate producer, who gets interested in his work of passion, a documentary about a Jewish philosopher. At the same time Cliff begins to take interest in Halley.

    Cliff is portrayed by Allen as a humble, wise and cynical man, who never managed to connect his aspirations to the demands of the real world. He has nothing to offer except his love and knowledge. This enables him to be a mentor to his young niece, but does not profit him in his relationship with Halley. The little girl also works as a stand-in for Cliff's conversations with his conscience. This device is made clearer in Rosenthal's segments, where he confides himself to a rabbi.

    So we have a dual storyline, where one section is morally repugnant and the other one is idealistic. The rabbi tells Rosenthal that their conversations are always about two views of life. One believes in a harsh world, empty of values and with a pitiless moral structure, while the other sees meaning and forgiveness and a higher power. Rosenthal has heard similar things before, since he was raised very religiously. "The eyes of God are on us always", advised his father. And when it came to the question of God's existence he would add: "In case of doubt I will always choose God over truth." But Judah cannot let God interfere when he plans to kill his lover. He feels guilt, alright, but people get used to circumstances. We deny and try to forget.

    When in Cliff's segment the Jewish professor commits suicide, it comes as a shock. Suddenly a philosophical system has been taken away. Isn't that one of the things we fear the most? To realize that our beliefs are incomplete and wrong. This understanding only tightens as the movie progresses. The rabbi is going blind, morality has lost. In the end the film is a sobering account of how immorality, deceit and its more harmless companions prevail.

    I feel Allen had to let the downbeat ending happen, to express a fear of his. In the 90's he would often return to lighter themes. This expresses his curiosity in all aspects of existence. Light and darkness coexist. Tonally "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is not a dark movie. Allen repeatedly breaks up an emotional scene with a punch-line. But Allen is always consistent in his tone, whatever subjects or periods he chooses. He is a tough worker, who has made 33 movies since 1969, which amounts to roughly one movie a year. "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is the clearest in its vision and among his very best.
  • When I registered with the IMDb, one of the survey questions asked what my favorite film was. I listed Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors. I don't know if this is always true, but for the most part I feel fairly confident regarding my choice. Allen's story here works, like most well written literature, on many levels. It is funny (Woody's lessons), symbolic (the Rabbi going blind), ironic (the good suffer and the evil go unpunished), deep (faith and suicide), and is a film that leaves you with something to identify with and learn from. Even Hally Reed's (Mia Farrow) surprising revelation at the end of the film, which I won't reveal of course, shows us a bit about the dangers of prejudging others. Woody shows us that we shouldn't judge on the surface, but must look deeper into the individual value of people. Do we trust Hally, or do we stick to what we see as the truth about Lester (Alan Alda)? This is a lesson that Woody's character, Cliff, doesn't even fully grasp at the end of the film, but Allen gives us the insight, even though what Hally reveals about Lester goes against what we've seen of him.

    Crimes and Misdemeanors is certainly not for all tastes. It's not exactly a film that people would watch for pure escapism. This is a film to be treasured, revisited and held up with some of the greatest films of all time. Not for how it looks or sounds, but for what it says. This is a film aimed at both the heart and the mind and succeeds in capturing both.
  • "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989)- is Woody Allen's masterpiece and my favorite film. It is urban and sophisticated, subtle and cruel. It is darker than dark and self-ironic. It is profound and touchingly poignant. It is deadly serious and in the same time it is incredibly funny. Its humor is razor sharp and sparkling and the best and funniest Woody's one-liners and comic performances belong here. As always in his best films, Allen had created a clever and elegant film out of his own weaknesses and insecurities and it shines. How much was Allen able to meditate on life, death, God, religion, morality, crimes and the responsibility, love and lust, happiness and the price one pays for it, and among those eternal subjects - how much fun it is to skip work or school and to sneak to the movies.

    It is universal. It has the references to many Artists and cultures - Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, and Bergman among the others but it is so undeniably and uniquely Allen. It could not have been made by any other director.

    It is the movie Allen will be remembered for.
  • Most would say "Annie Hall", some would say "Manhattan", those who prefer Allen's early career might even mention "Sleeper". Few would call "Crimes and Misdemeanors" Woody Allen's best film as writer/director, but the more I watch it, the more I realize that it's not only my favorite, but in many ways the film Allen was working towards for the entirety of his career as a writer prior to this.

    In "Crimes and Misdemeanors" Allen revisits a recurring theme in many of his films, adultery. It would be a simplistic and narrow-minded view of this film to say that it was simply about adultery because it is really far more complex than that, and essentially a film about all varieties of human nature and relationships, and one could even argue- the relationship between reality and film as explored through the lens of genre- romantic comedy, Film-Noir, and documentary, and what parts of this film are- satire.

    "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is one of Allen's best scripts. Any screenplay attempting to accomplish as much as this one does could easily fall apart, and Allen has had less convincing attempts than this one with similar ambitions, but everything works beautifully here. This film practically defines the 'tragicomedy' sub-genre, with neither overpowering the other and much of the humor is dark humor originating in tragedy, something that is acknowledged by Allen through the character of Lester (played to perfection by Alan Alda), who comments that comedy is nothing more than "tragedy plus time". He also mentions that comedy has to have an ending, and that's one of the best things about this movie- Allen allows dramatic scenes to succeed at being dramatic and emotional, then throws a hilarious punchline at you, which has an effect that is both entertaining and somewhat unsettling. This is an expertly-written movie.

    "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is the culmination of a decade of consistently brilliant, evocative, original, and fascinating films from Woody Allen, whose 80's output I would personally consider to be his best. His 70's work is far more popular, but his 80's work contains some of the most unique and memorable films ever made: "Stardust Memories", "Zelig", "The Purple Rose of Cairo", and "Hannah and Her Sisters", as well as numerous overlooked and generally forgotten films that can only be called excellent, such as: "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy", "Broadway Danny Rose", "Radio Days", "September", and "Another Woman". On top of all these memorable films is "Crimes and Misdemeanors", which is simply my favorite Woody Allen film and almost certainly his best and most focused effort.

    10/10
  • Let's begin by declaring that you do not need to be a Woody Allen fan to appreciate this film. As is often the case, Allen's schlemiel character is the least sympathetic and interesting one in the movie.

    But that aside, here's a story that I found thoroughly engaging. Is there a perfect crime? Is guilt the same as remorse? How does a "good" person come to terms with his sins?

    The blind Rabbi: Is God unseeing? The Holocaust survivor philosopher who challenges survival (that's all I can say without spoiling): is there any real redemption?

    The movie has flaws but I give it a "10" for daring to ask serious questions. (And the visit to the old house in Brooklyn has a dynamism that all of us who remember our childhood homes will relate to.)
  • perica-431517 January 2019
    This is one of the most brilliant Woody Allen movies. Deep, dark and cynical, it speaks truth about the world around us. It essentially involves two plots, one about crimes (murder that goes unpunished) and the other about misdemeanors (involving Woody's character as a decent person who is inevitably a loser in such a world, and Alan Alda in one of his best roles as a memorable pompous villain with unforgettably mocked line "if it bends it's funny, if it breaks, it is't not funny"). Absolutely recommended!
  • sanarg30 August 2005
    Not much has to be said. This is an outstanding film, possibly one of the best films I have ever seen. All performances are perfect. Half drama, half comedy, and that very well done. It has deep thoughts about quilt and mistakes, lots of truth about relationships. It has laughs and a perfect ending. Every time I watch this film I just want to sit down and write, just write something interesting to leave behind. The film is already 16 yrs old and you wont notice that at all, it's one of those films that never age. I would recommend this movie to anyone who doesn't want to spend another two hours of his life watching yet another Hollywood crap.
  • blanche-27 June 2000
    This is a profound film, a true classic and great even among Woody Allen's great films! Thought-provoking and involving, I've found since seeing it that the film and its statements about good versus evil, denial, guilt, narcissism, have never really left me. A film with many layers, one that demands a re-visiting from time to time.
  • hausrathman20 February 2003
    Martin Landau, a successful doctor, contemplates murdering a former mistress who threatens his easy life while Woody Allen, an unsuccessful filmmaker, contemplates having an extramarital affair. This film, alongside "Annie Hall," will one day be rated as one of Woody Allen's greatest achievements. It is an important, intelligent work that explores the implications of whether or not this is indeed a moral universe. It also very funny. The subplot about Allen making a film about his successful, conceited brother-in-law (Alan Alda.) A masterpiece. I doubt he will reach these heights again.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Crimes and Misdemeanors is a film about two men who are unhappy in their marriages and the different choices they make to change their situation. Judah is a rich, successful orthopedic doctor who began having an affair two years previous with a woman named Delores; it was not because he had a bad marriage, he was merely bored and wanted some hot new "tail." Clifford is a nerdy, struggling filmmaker whose marriage has been on a steady decline for the past year; he begins work on a new project and meets his co-worker Nancy, who he immediately begins to fall for despite still being marred.

    Judah's lover Delores starts to become very emotionally unstable and begins to threaten and blackmail Judah because he won't tell his wife about his mistress. She makes attempts to contact the wife herself and starts calling his house all the time. Judah realizes what an ass he's been and how he's jeopardized his whole life and career by having this affair; he goes to his brother Jack for advise, and he suggests Judah have Delores murdered. Initially Judah is appalled by this notion and refuses the thought altogether; however, after some time of having Delores get bolder and more desperate, Judah seriously considers it and finally decides to go through with the murder.

    Meanwhile, Clifford continues courting his co-worker and begins to believe he is in love with her. He eventually tells her and ends up having a few sexual discrepancies. Not long after he tells Nancy his feelings for her, she tells Clifford that she has taken a job in Paris and will be gone for a few months. Clifford is shattered but decides to wait for her and get a divorce in the meantime. Around six months or so later Clifford sees Nancy at a party on the arm of a man he despises, and overhears that they got married while in Paris. He is devastated and is now single, miserable, and poor.

    The film ends with Judah and Clifford talking at the party, and Judah is telling Clifford how his life has totally turned around and he is incredibly happy now. He ends up with his wife in a better relationship than they had before and is still a successful doctor. Clifford mulls over the idea of murder and if he had killed the man before, Nancy would never have married him. Ultimately we see that Judah did the wrong thing and ended up happier than before, while Clifford made the better choices and ended up miserable and alone for the rest of his life.

    According to Mill and the Utilitarian viewpoint, Judah's choice to murder his mistress was the correct moral decision. Utilitarian's believe that the final consequences are all that matter, and that the moral decision brings about the happiness of the most people involved. They do not care that Delores had her life snuffed out for no real good reason, or that she was completely innocent of anything that would deserve such a harsh punishment. But by her death many other people remained happy; Judah was able to sweep his discrepancies under the rug, so to speak, and return to his old life as if nothing happened. He gained a deeper appreciation for his wife and family and thus was happier, by Delores' death the family remained in the dark about Judah's affair and they were all happy. None of his clients found out about his shady money transactions, and everyone in his life either remained as happy as before, or became happier.

    Kant would have said that Judah was immoral because of the categorical imperative, which states that one should not act in such a way that they would not want others to act and thus be a universal law. If Judah believed in the categorical imperative, then by killing Delores he would essentially be saying that it would be okay if someone killed him for being a nuisance or for unethically messing around with his clients' money. I believe it is pretty obvious that Judah would not have wanted this at all since he couldn't even bare the thought that he would have to suffer the consequences for his wrong actions; not to mention having to pay for them with his own life.

    Clifford's case is a little more difficult for me; I believe Mill and Kant would have said that Clifford was being moral by not following through with his murderous thoughts. Clifford divorced his wife and she met someone new, so she was happier; his lover Nancy ended up getting married to a man that she seemed to truly love, so both she and her new husband were happy also. Clifford was the only one who seemed to come out at a loss when everything was said and done, so Mill would have said the net gain was in happiness. Kant would have also said Clifford did the right thing, because he would not want it to be a universal law that people can kill each other out of jealousy.

    In total, this film had quite a few things going on and different themes underneath the surface. The ending seemed to suggest to the audience that the person who does what is immoral but can get away with it is happier than the person who does what is right.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie is two separate stories made into one via just three devices: 1) a relatively minor, albeit symbolic character (a blind Rabbi), 2) a brief meeting of the two main protagonists, and 3) a philosopher's narration at the closing (or it would seem so, anyway).

    The first section - the "crime", and the good part - tells the story of an eye doctor (very nicely played by Martin Landau) who has it all: a wonderful wife and family, a successful career, a beautiful home, and a neurotic mistress (Anjelica Huston), the last of which threatens to spill the beans and destroy everything in his life. Landau is a respectable, decent guy who finds himself unable to cope with the enormity of these circumstances, and he goes to an extreme by enlisting the help of his mob-connected brother (Jerry Orbach), who has the mistress killed. There follows some interesting scenes in which we see Landau going to an emotional edge over what he has done, and searching his past and present for some answers. It is a well-done, believable story that raises a lot of interesting philosophical questions.

    The second section - a much lighter story than the first - stars Allen in his typical genre in which he plays a filmmaker doing a portrait of his brother-in-law TV producer (Alan Alda), and whom he greatly despises. This story is further complicated by a love triangle with a television documentary maker, played by Mia Farrow. There are a few amusing lines in this section, and it wraps up into a somewhat ironic ending.

    But what is the connection here? The first time I saw this film, I kept asking myself: "What do the Landau and Allen stories have to do with each other?". I found myself asking the same exact question the second, third, and fourth times I saw it as well.

    Then I saw an interview with Allen. He said that the Landau segment is a statement of his belief that there is no God or divinely-inspired morality - not much of a surprise there.

    The second part of the film, says Allen, was trying to tell us that intentions do not matter, but rather it is success that counts in this world; that even though his character truly cared for the Farrow character, it was the vain, shallow, unworthy, but nevertheless rich and successful Alda character that eventually won her heart. OK, I guess that point comes through as well.

    But once again, we are back to the same question: What do these two stories have to do with each other? Not much, from what I can see. What is the "crime" or even the "misdemeanor" committed in the Allen segment? If you can connect these two stories, you might also have some success in connecting "Sleeper" with "Gone With The Wind" - the stories really don't mesh. To put it bluntly, it almost appears as if Allen had two separate scripts, neither of which were meaty enough for a full-length film, so his solution was to combine them into one movie. Am I correct? Someone please explain to me why I am not.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film seizes on something that would fascinate any ordinary person. The idea of knocking off someone by contract. And not just anybody, but a mentally unstable mistress who is demanding that ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) leave his wife and come to her or else she will expose the affair to his friends and family anyways, along with certain financial discrepancies that occurred in his business. Judah is well thought of in the community, and in lots of ways an everyman who we can identify with. Judah is depicted as going through the same stages of conscience that any ordinary person in this situation might do. In noirs or stark gangster pictures, it's a common occurrence and no one frets about it : but here is a "regular" type guy actually goes through with the crime in all of its stages, no I can't; well, maybe; caves in; guilt --- going through the same things that I or you might go through. After all, for me at least, doing something like that is out of the question. And yet Woody makes us identify with doing just that in a real-world, not a romanticized one. His ability to take an idea like that and make is so alive is just one of his many gifts. And that's only a part of the movie, which mainly deals with the unfairness and lack of justice of the universe.

    One of Landau's patients is a very moral rabbi who is going blind - there is nothing that will stop it - and worse, he will be blind by the time his daughter gets married, so he won't even get to see that event. So part of Landau's inner torment is why would he get to keep his profession, his reputation, and his family at the expense of somebody else's life when a moral man like his patient and friend the rabbi has such an unjust fate?

    This was one of if not the the best of Woody's films. How does it end? Let's just say Woody Allen would have been very frustrated by the old production code.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) was written and directed by Woody Allen. The film stars Allen as a documentary filmmaker, who makes documentaries that no one would want to see.

    The structure of the film is unusual. It's really two movies with a fragile link that connects them.

    In one plot, Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) is a prominent ophthalmologist and philanthropist. He's married to Miriam (Claire Bloom), but he's had an affair with Dolores, played by Anjelica Huston. Any movie that contains these three great actors will be a pleasure to watch.

    The second plot concerns Cliff Stern (Woody) who's married to Wendy (Joanna Gleason) but is in love with Halley (Mia Farrow).

    The link between the two plots is that Wendy's brother Ben (Sam Waterston) has a degenerative eye disease. Ben is being treated for this disease by Judah. Because Ben is a rabbi, Judah confides in him about the love triangle in which he finds himself.

    Allen is a brilliant writer and director, and his strengths are in getting dialog right and carefully portraying the milieu in which his characters live and work. Granted, "the Woody Allen part" is predictable and hard to watch. (He's still writing that part, although he's too old now to play it. Just watch "Midnight in Paris" and you'll see the same character in a script written over 20 years after "Crimes and Misdemeanors.")

    This is a film I enjoyed and recommend. In my opinion, almost everything Woody Allen directs is worth seeing. "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is one of Allen's best, and is definitely worth seeking out. (We saw the film on DVD, and it worked well on the small screen. If it's not showing in revival, rent or buy the DVD,)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Woody Allen is Woody Allen. He always has some very thought provoking subjects to write and ultimately film about. Crimes and Misdemeanors in a lot of ways, in my opinion, is his most thought provoking film to date. What really brings the movie together is the ending where Martin Landau's character is talking to Woody Allen's character. I won't get into the whole movie here, but what Landau's character talks about to Allen's character is the fact that if you kill someone or had someone killed, you feel bad at first about it, but you ultimately move on with your life, and as time goes by, the killing becomes further away in your thoughts, like the phrase, 'This too shall pass.'

    Allen's character talks about how if a person kills someone and/or had someone killed that they would ultimately confess to the police from feeling to guilty about it. Landau's character says, to the likes of, 'at first you feel guilty, but that's movie stuff confessing, no you get through it and move on with your life.'(again he didn't say this verbatim, but to the likes of he did).

    Very interesting thoughts come at the movie viewer like fireworks bursting into the sky at this point such as- Is it truly only about survival and do we move on and adapt no matter what? Do we get through the lulls of life and learn to adapt, live and survive in this world the that way we like to no matter what? Do we learn to live with life, as it was, whether it be Crimes(something horrible as in we killed someone) and/or Misdemeanors(Cheating on your girlfriend or wife or both-for the polyamorous)? Another thought provoking subject that comes up is of what's 'real'(that has concretely happened, been seen in the world) and what 'isn't real or what hasn't and/or can't be seen'(God; Faith; all of this according to what the movie is stating).

    Allen really makes you think in this film, and he's one of the best for this kind of writing. The answer is really simple since there isn't a solid black or white answer, which there never is anyway(And I believe ultimately, that's Woody Allen's point), it's pretty much to the individual. The funny thing is both Landau's character and Allen's character are both right.

    There are some people in this world that would think like Landau and go on living their lives after killing someone and then there are some people in this world that make Allen's argument right, where they would breakdown and confess about their crime of killing someone, and that's real life, not a movie, it goes both ways, depending on the person. It comes down to 'What is Truth?' as Pontius Pilate said(Pronounced Pawnchuss Pilot).

    Truth is to the eye of the beholder, it's different for everyone. Some people's truth would be on the side of Landau's character and some on the side of Allen's character. Some people are realists and see the truth as only what they can see and only what has happened, and some people's truth is what you can see but also what you can't see too, God and Faith in particular. What can't be seen is sometimes as real as what can be seen. There are things that happen in life through events of faith and worship and other ordeals that come to a fruition in the here and the now, and the realists wouldn't have believed it when it wasn't seen, but when it became seen, then they believed it. A very crafty movie by an absolute brilliant man in Woody Allen. It's a must see for the deep thinkers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Woody Allen has claimed "Crimes & Misdemeanors" was a mistake, that he re-shot the final third of the film at the last-minute, completely changing the storyline and plot. Maybe he's that brilliant... maybe he's just being humble... whatever the case, "Crimes & Misdemeanors" works, and it stands as one of Woody's boldest statements on God & human nature.

    There's wonderful symbolism at work as eye doctor Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) looks to the eyes of God for judgement on his sins and murderous misdeed, but the parallel story of Woody's principled documentarian forced to film Alan Alda's obnoxious TV producer rings just as true: the wicked often go unpunished and generally awful people are worshipped for their financial success. This to me was Woody's last great film before the 90's found him in various stages of personal and artistic crisis.

    "Crimes & Misdemeanors" is thought-provoking, conversation-starting film with wonderful performances from Allen, Landau, and uber-jerk Alda. Catch it if you can...

    GRADE: B+
  • This is a deftly made movie with parallel stories and portrayal of the world of Jewish New Yorkers. The angst over whether there is a true morality from an omnipotent God makes the film thought-provoking and, to some, disturbing. Allen has grappled now twice with this idea of getting away with murder and whether one can go on to live a good life without fear of retribution. He explored it in this film, and then again in Matchpoint. In Crimes and Misdemeanors, the issue was whether God was watching and if the guilty character could live well with his conscience. In Matchpoint, retribution is a matter of random luck.

    The conclusions of both films can seem brilliant to some, but quite troubling to others. The reason this is so, is because Allen's main question, "Can the murderer get away with it?" hinges on one important assumption: that all rewards and punishments occur in this life...and that moral behavior is subject to rewards and punishments. This is in fact a very Jewish point of view (hence the family debate in their Midwood, Brooklyn, home). Jews do not believe in Heaven or Hell, so all has to be achieved in this life. Within the logic that emerges from the above question is inevitably a morally confused universe and cynical point of view. What's worse is that the movie assumes the rewards are things like wealth, career success, love.

    If murderers do not get found out and do not suffer punishment, does that mean there is no moral God watching over us? No, their crime or misdemeanor is still wrong, because it caused harm to someone. If they have no conscience and they are not caught, it is still wrong. If there is not a God meting out rewards and punishments in this life or the afterlife, what makes it wrong? Does it not matter if one decides to murder for personal gain? Is not the rule to follow simply dog eat dog and every man for himself? Allen has not progressed in questioning the assumption, whether material rewards are the appropriate measure of morality.

    To get past his ongoing conundrum, the next time Allen takes on this theme, he needs to consider how society as a whole would break down if no one subscribed to any code of morality. There would not be anything to get away with, since everyone would subscribe to the law of the jungle: who ever eats, wins. Without a common code of morals, we would be reduced to a primitive state.

    Allen is very literary, but to address moral issues, he needs to go beyond the individual and consider social systems as a whole. Morality is a matter of relationships to our fellow human beings, not of individual success in life. One might argue that societies have a long history of sanctioning, through the law, behaviors we find abhorrent today, so morality is still all relative and there is no moral absolute. I think, rather, that human societies evolve as we learn from our mistakes, and we find out these mistakes because indeed there is a moral absolute that reveals them to be wrong: gradually it becomes recognized that it is not okay for women to be an underclass to men; that racism violates the rights of people; that lying, cheating, stealing, and murdering result in a breakdown of the trust required to engage in transactions and the economic health of a society; that crime is a symptom of a lot of social ills, from economic inequities to mental illness to social pressures that sway the individual's moral compass. Obviously, there are sociopaths and criminals who have no empathy for their victims and no conscience about gaining at the expense of others, including murder -- we now have clinical terms for them, and even can link aberrant, deficient behaviors to parts of the brain. Judah's brother is such a one with no twinges of conscience. Judah enjoys the trappings of success very much because those around subscribe to a moral code to which he must pretend.

    Criminals are put in jail to punish them, to protect society from them, and to reform them. Society's sense of morality evolves in the effort to achieve some social order that is sustainable. If someone gets away with murder, the goal of the law is that society does not implode with everyone doing the same as some norm of behavior. One does not need a God to tell us what works or not. Our different beliefs in God or not, meanwhile, color how we codify our morals in social conduct and the law.

    Good movie, within its narrowly defined universe, but Allen needs to expand beyond that small universe to truly answer the question of moral absolutes. I hope he reads my review somehow, as I get the sense that his is indeed a very troubled man.

    P.S. To those who analyze the film in terms of Utilitarianism and Kant, my above take based on human relationships draws from Asian philosophy and Confucianism, and the concept of societies as complex systems.
  • It's hard to add to what SanFava said. This is a movie I never tire of seeing and I've seen it many, many times. It's so well written and well acted. What's really remarkable to me, no matter how many times you've seen the film, is that the funny parts are still funny and the thought-provoking parts are still as deep and relevant as always. What does it say about America that most people you talk to about film either have never heard of Crimes and Misdemeanors or have seen it and thought it boring? A great film doesn't need Tom Hanks or Jack Nicholson or Julia Roberts or computerized graphics or massive explosions every 10 seconds or gory blood spatters from people shot in the head (this means you, The Departed). Crimes and Misdemeanors is, to me, Woody Allen's greatest film and he's made a lot of great ones. One of my "stranded on a deserted island" films. 10/10.
  • Woody Allen is not everybody's cup of tea, with me while his body of work is not always consistent(but that is true with a lot of directors) much of it is wittily written and insightful as seen with his masterpiece Annie Hall. Crimes and Misdemeanours has everything that is so good about the best of his work. With the subject matter and how the comedy and seriousness is blended Crimes and Misdemeanours is one of Allen's most ambitious, and along with the likes of Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives and Manhattan it's one of his best too. The look of the film is elegant and hauntingly dark, while the score is jazzy and seductive. The story has some key themes(good and evil and life and death as examples) that are very clearly addressed and dealt with with adroitness and truth. The concept is not an innovative one as such but it's challenging and hugely compelling. And the writing is to thank for that, the humour is wonderfully ironic and very characteristic of the distinctive wise-cracking Allen style, there are references and observations that are sharp and insightful(always one of Allen's strong points as a writer) and they is blended well with a serious tone that is dark and appropriately troubling, the shifts between comedy and drama didn't jar to me. The acting is very good, often outstanding. Woody Allen acts as well as directs and writes and there are no obvious problems with his performance(or his directing), not a likable character by all means but that was the intent. Anjelica Huston doesn't disappoint, nor does Jerry Orbach before his Law and Order days, Sam Waterson and Claire Bloom. Mia Farrow is affecting as well. But the acting honours go to Alan Alda and especially Martin Landau, Alda plays an absolute weasel to perfection while Landau gives a performance that has not only only been matched by his Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood but also one of the greatest performances of any Woody Allen film. All in all, a Woody Allen classic, an example of ambitious done brilliantly. 10/10 Bethany Cox
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In a world where there is no God and where the philosophers commit suicide,one can get away with murder and sell the story to a film maker.

    Ironicaly enough the only one whose ideas prove to be true is Lesther the TV producer:"Comedy is tragedy plus time",and what a short time Hamlet might have said!Only four months after getting rid of his mistress,Judah Rosenthal who catches God's eyes nowhere but in the gaze of the dead Dolores,is an honorary doctor and a devoted husband and father again.

    The ophthalmologist who can't see his own vices,the blind Rabi,the unfortunate documentary film maker, the successful TV producer... all are the guests of a wedding, of the beginning of a new life, with so many questions remained unanswered.The bride is leading her blind father through the dance,and we hear the voice of the philosopher who before jumping out of the window opens one for us,by telling that we define ourselves by the choices we make and only we, with our capacity to love can give meaning to the indifferent universe.
  • tedg18 October 2000
    I am beginning a review of Allen's films and decided to start with this one, as it is considered his most intelligent. Certainly, the focus of the film is at the end where the primary character proposes making this film to Woody, who has played a filmmaker. This directly self-referential device is bold, and could have been part of a fine web, as several other filmmakers have created.

    But the problem is that we're given pretty thin broth up until that point. Woody tries to be as honestly raw as Chekhov and as deeply symbolic as Kafka. Instead we get a sophomoric effort.

    God's eyes are mentioned a dozen times. And the protagonist is an eye doctor who is treating a rabbi who goes blind. `Get it?' Woody shouts. To set up the self-referential last scene, we are treated to Woody playing an unappreciated filmmaker making a film inspired by a Jewish philosopher who seems happy but is not. `Get it?' Woody nudge nudges. To underscore that in the theater, we are the eyes of God, Woody bluntly demonstrates by inserting his own viewing of films and philosophizing about film.

    This is not intelligent filmmaking, my friends. It is the clumsiness of someone smart enough to see what art is, but not clever enough to create it. Maybe he thinks 90% of creating art is showing up.

    Along the way, we get an interesting performance from Alda. But it is all too obvious that every character's dialog is Woody's and they are acting just as Woody has demonstrated to them. Check out their mannerisms. Maybe his comedies will be better. His books are excellent.
  • On our daily full routines sometimes we overlook something here and there, regardless of consequences, just going ahead with our passions and desires, interests and achievements. But life knows how to makes us pay the price for not looking at those things more carefully. And not looking at all of this is a crime, a misdemeanor, and to that there's punishment as well. Maybe not to everyone involved but to a vast majority. At times leading its story with a dramatic seriousness and other times with a sharp humor, Woody Allen divides this film in two segments (serious/funny), often intertwining both stories with one common theme: the worst blindness of all, of the one who doesn't want to see.

    The stories: ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) is living the life of his dreams with a perfect family, a great job and being a respectable man but there's one thing bothering this man: his mistress, the flight attendant Dolores (Anjelica Huston) got tired of being on the second plan of his life and she wants to live with Judah, without caring about his family and reputation as an honored citizen. The final ultimatum she gives to him (tell you're wife about me or I'll tell her about us and your lies), makes him take a unexpected and drastic measure that might haunt him for life: he hires someone to kill Dolores. On a less serious take there's the story of Clifford (Woody Allen), an filmmaker in a low point of his career trying to make the project of his life when he's approached by his brother-in-law Lester (Alan Alda), a guy he despises with all of his force, to make an documentary about him. While making this project in which he's not so thrilled about it he'll meet the special Halley (Mia Farrow), for whom he falls in love but she seems looking at other direction, and to another person, Lester. The constant fight Clifford will have is with himself trying to figure out a way to understand why such thing is happening with him and trying to caught Halley's attention.

    Allen analyzes all kinds of blinds and different types of blindness here. The ophthalmologist, and that's not an accident, he's the one who prevents eye problems and he's the most significant of the blinded characters of the film. He's blind for never realizing he has everything he needed: a family, money, respect from his colleagues and friends. No, he's jeopardizing everything in trade of some adventurous love affair he doesn't know how to end it; his mistress can't see he's never gonna leave his family and risk his reputation for her, therefore, she's blinded as well; the filmmaker had its vision of reality obscured by failing to notice that life isn't like movies where showing your deeply affects to someone might be returned, no matter how much he tries to conquer the woman of his dreams, she'll always turn her back on him, preferring his egocentric rival on business; Halley is blind for not seeing how much Clifford loves her, instead concentrating her thoughts on Lester; the latter is blind to his own egocentrism, refusing to be seen as someone cynical, unfunny and not so bright, he's too focused on himself although he pays a certain attention to Halley; and at last we have a real blind person but this one seems to see more than any of this character altogether. The Rabbi Ben (Sam Waterston) gives profound advises to Judah, his friend and doctor, of what to do with the whole affair problem. Little by little, we get saddened by his loss of eyesight throughout the story but he always has the right word to say. Conclusion: with the exception of Ben, all of them can see (physically) but they refuse to do so (spiritually/morally) and at the end they're caught in their own silly entrapment.

    "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is an exceptional story about life consequences, love, human relations at its good and bad times, guilt, the things which determines failure and success on everything, and the often mentioned blindness of all kinds, particularly the worst kind of it. This is Woody's great response to the happy endings he gave to his characters in the magnificent "Hannah and Her Sisters". Here, the stories taste bittersweet with an incredible and implacable reality. Also exceptional are the performances by the extraordinary casting, most notably Landau and Huston playing the complicated couple of the ongoing tragedy. It is on scenes where Landau doesn't speak at all where we see how great he is, displaying a enormous guilty conscience, the sense of fear present all the time when he's driving his car, Schubert playing in the background, his glad flashbacks of how he met Dolores but he's always worried about what to do next.

    Few times in our lives we were able to see the truth behind the lies greatly presented like in this movie. Allen in its geniality took the blindfold of our eyes and it's not every time something like this happen. Please, don't be like the worst of all blind, who can see but refuses to do so and go watch this film right away. 10/10
  • PWNYCNY28 December 2005
    Let's give credit where credit is due. This is an excellent movie. It offers the kind of character development that not only is engaging, but is also relevant to the story, which makes the movie all that much more compelling, powerful and unique. A man lives a lie, lives a life of deception, is a coward and a hypocrite, yet one can feel empathy for this man who is struggling to come to terms with the consequences of his own duplicity. It almost makes the audience want to call out to the other characters: "Don't you know what kind of charlatan this man is?" "Don't you realize that this man you admire and love so much is a fraud?" A sad movie, but one worth watching.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Three Acts:

    The initial tableaux: Ophthalmologist Judah is successful and respected. However, he's been having an affair with Dolores. Dolores wants to bring up the matter with Judah's wife Miriam, and clear the air. Judah would rather not.

    Cliff is a maker of small films who has little success. His wife Wendy speaks to her brother Lester, who is very successful in Hollywood. She convinces Lester to get Cliff a job filming a biography on Lester. Cliff takes the job in order to fund his own projects.

    Delineation of conflicts: Lester does not really want Cliff to direct his biography, but he does it as a favor to Wendy. Cliff does not want to do the piece, since he has no respect for Lester's pomposity. Cliff tries to connect with Halley, Lester's producer, in order to get additional funding for his documentary on Professor Levy. Filming Lester being Lester is a grand pain for Cliff.

    Judah wants to break up with Dolores, but Dolores has other ideas, which include seriously fouling up his personal and professional life. Jack suggests a solution to Judah's problem, but Judah has qualms. Ben, Judah's rabbi and patient, counsels him to take the higher road: let the meeting happen, let disclosure happen, keep a clear conscience. Dolores escalates, so what does Judah do?

    Resolution: Judah needs to solve his moral, financial, and personal dilemmas. Cliff needs to find his own success, and perhaps reignite his married life.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Imagine if everything you were ever taught about moral, ethics and karma turns out not to be true? « You get what you give », « Good things come to good people », « Instant karma is gonna get you! ». We hear and often repeat these phrases, try to live well with ourselves and with others, be good citizens, do good. Many of us believe that this is not only the good way to go about life, but also expect to be rewarded because of our good behavior, to get what we want, to grow in life, have a great job, meet a nice partner, live well, prosper.

    This is, however, a Woody Allen story, and it may as well be his masterpiece. The story can be roughly divided in two, and centers on the lives of two very different men. One is Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a married and successful ophthalmologist who suddenly starts facing problems with his lover (in a good performance by Anjelica Huston). The other man is the idealist and broke moviemaker Cliff Stern (played by Allen himself), facing family problems, a broken marriage and a work crisis. The stark difference between these two men turn the movie into a would-be duel between idealism and superficiality.

    Themes like our roles in society, religion, morals, existentialism, the final judgment and philosophy are thoroughly discussed in the movie, both directly in conversation but also reflectively through the actions of the different characters, without ever compromising the development of the story, nor the viewer's interest in it. Balanced in the comic paranoia of Allen's writing and acting, the story finds a meeting point between drama, irreverence and meaningful topics. Pertinent reflections and dialogues drive characters to often funny, often heavy situations, and many times both.

    « Crimes and Misdemeanors » represented a return of Woody Allen to comedy, after flirting with more psychologically driven stories, clearly influenced by Ingmar Bergman, as shown in previous works like « Another Woman » and « September ». Still, comedy here exists and at the same time does not, as the deeper reflections proposed by the movie can push the viewer into a different direction.

    Rosenthal's tale shows a man initially consumed by anguish over the decisions he needs to take. Whatever path he chooses will certainly leave a long-lasting and deep scar in his life. Humor is absent here, and Sven Nyqvist's cinematography (the same that often worked with Bergman) is dark and somber, reflecting the state of mind of the central character. Cliff's journey, however, is lighter and more comical, a typical portrait of Allen's characters played by himself. The different stories balance each other out perfectly: they offer the light after the darkness, the calm after the storm.

    Finally, and only towards the end of the movie, the two men meet and talk about the crimes and sins of real life, and what can their real consequences be. The encounter of these two seemingly so different characters, but who then suddenly realize that perhaps what they were always taught about life and morals could be wrong, could be considered an anagnorisis of Aristotle, a final realization, a critical discovery of things as they show themselves to be, not as we had constructed them in our imaginary. Are we indeed the sum of our choices?
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