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Brilliant, probably Woody's best and most focused
schnofel12 October 2004
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.
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A film that explores the human soul.
Dastari22 May 1999
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.
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Great tragicomedy. One of Allen's finest films.
EThompsonUMD21 April 2005
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.
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"Human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation... If you want a happy ending, you should go see a Hollywood movie."
Galina20 November 2006
"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.
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ametaphysicalshark29 April 2008
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.

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Rare film that ventures into Good and Evil Conscience
nlevin1130 April 2005
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.)
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A perfect film
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.
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A masterpiece
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.
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Allen's best
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.
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Does anyone else see what I see?
EW-313 May 2005
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.
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A Movie That Shows there is no Absolute Answer
dallasryan22 February 2012
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.
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Two discrete plots in one excellent movie
Red-1255 August 2011
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,)
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One of Woody Allen's most ambitious films, also one of his classics
TheLittleSongbird15 February 2014
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
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A look at the worst kind of blindness: of the one who refuses to look
Rodrigo Amaro29 August 2011
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
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An existential masterpiece
Haynoosh8 March 2008
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.
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"What were God's eyes like?"
Merwyn Grote30 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, Woody Allen plays a documentary filmmaker named Cliff Stern who is working on a film about a philosopher who is also a Holocaust survivor. As Cliff shows a sample of his incomplete film to Halley Reed, played by Mia Farrow, the old philosopher drones away in the background discussing rather elementary questions of morality. Obviously oblivious to the sad fact that the old man's rambling discourse is tedious and banal, Allen and Farrow rave about his insights and brilliance.

Meanwhile, Cliff is also making a TV documentary -- strictly for the money, about a crass Norman Lear-like television producer, played by Alan Alda. Lester, Alda's character, also happens to be Cliff's brother-in-law, and Cliff hates the man; supposedly because he is a crude and pretentious showman, but most probably because Lester is a financially successful crude and pretentious showman. Throughout CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, Allen holds up Lester to a degree of ridicule that is equal to the degree of awe he reserves for the droning philosopher.

It doesn't take a genius to see the parallel that this situation has for the way Woody has come to approach his film-making. He has this misbegotten desire to be taken serious as a dramatist and an insightful philosopher that clashes with the reality that what he does best is to create comedy, particularly comedy that mocks the very pontificating, overwritten gobbledygook that passes for deep philosophical ponderings.

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS is roughly divided into two barely related stories. The "misdemeanor" of the title is a variation of the standard Woody Allen love story. Allen's Cliff is unhappily married and he lusts after Farrow's Halley, who in turn has caught the eye of Lester. There is a nothing terribly new or original in this tale, but it does give Allen a chance to hurl his usual sardonic barbs at the male/female condition and the sorry state of the world in general.

However, most of CRIMES focuses on the "serious" story, the "crime." Martin Landau plays Judah Rosenthal, a prominent and highly respected eye specialist. However, Judah's perfect world is threatened when his unstable mistress, Dolores (Anjelica Huston), gets tired of being taken for granted and demands that he leave his wife or suffer the consequences. Not wishing to have his well-ordered life shaken up, he arranges for his shady brother, Jack (Jerry Orbach), to "take care of" Dolores, while Judah moans and groans endlessly about how awful the whole situation makes him feel. Allen's point in CRIMES is that while Cliff's life is ruined -- or at least messed up -- by his petty sin of coveting, Judah's only gets better and better after his involvement in a murder. Allen's question seems to be how can such an injustice happen if there is, indeed, a just and honorable God?

Allen's point is well taken; unfortunately, his film is hard to take. As a filmmaker, his style can become stilted, arch and cynical. When he puts these qualities into his comedy, it produces wryly sophisticated humor. When applied to his attempts at drama, the result is too often sterile, dispassionate and unappealing. His literate comedy turns into painful preaching and posturing.

Allen is obviously most concerned with the story of Judah, a study of a basically good man who can commit and prosper from evil deeds. And perhaps the viewer could sympathize with Allen's queries if Woody hadn't inadvertently stacked the deck so that we sympathize to some degree with Judah's actions, by giving us a Dolores who is a belligerent shrew and a blackmailer. We aren't given a lot of reason to feel sorry for Delores, and even though Judah comes off as a transparently insincere hypocrite in his response to the killing, we are given every reason to believe that he has otherwise led a superior and moral life. Could it be that Judah can get away with a bad deed because he has worked hard to build up so much good karma in the first place? Woody won't raise that question.

Woody, meanwhile, tries to give us Cliff as the noble "little man" who suffers unfairly in the shadow of a rich and powerful sinner like Judah -- and, for that matter, Lester. But Cliff is not a very nice person. Beyond being a potential philanderer, Cliff comes off as a mean and petty little man, who seems to blame others for all his failures. When Cliff finds himself down and almost out at the end, it's his fault, not God's.

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS is for the most part a parable, with the moral being "Life is not fair;" whether the crime is big or small, moral justice is an illusion. As obvious as it seems, it is also a self-serving moral that just doesn't ring particularly true, since neither Judah nor Cliff are all bad or all good and, most importantly, the story only examines fragments of their entire lives. Just as Cliff's film on Lester shows only parts that make him look bad, Allen is selective in how he reveals who Judah and Cliff are. It just may be that God has a broader view of what constitutes justice than Allen might embrace.

Certainly Woody seems to be far more judgmental than God, especially when it comes to judging God. Indeed, perhaps the true moral of CRIMES -- and much of his other work -- is that "It is all God's fault, or it would be if God existed -- but he doesn't, so let's blame God for not existing in the first place." For an atheist, Allen certainly places a lot of blame on an entity that he doesn't even believe in. In Woody's world, God just can't win.
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A Dull Dostoyevsky Dramedy
TheFilmFreak12 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If one is going to merge two short films together, one should at least establish stronger links between them (a tenuous one in the form of a blind Rabbi simply does not suffice). Yet Woody Allen is evidently content with the near-terminal drudgery of his screenplay as he directs his duel tale of existentialist infidelity and Jewish despondency.

To give you a brief overview of these stories, half of the film follows the catastrophic developments of affluent ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal's (Martin Landau) affair with emotionally volatile stewardess Dolores Paley (Angelica Huston). Dolores wants Judah to annul his marriage to the blissfully ignorant Miriam (Claire Bloom), but Judah is not too keen on the prospect. Unfortunately, Paley is not too keen either on the prospect of Judah just discarding her like a Mark Twain novel and decides to put pressure on her lover. This proves to be an unacuminous move on her part as Judah recruits his brother to annul her metabolic processes. It works, but Judah ends up having moral reservations over the murder. The other half of the film depicts the HI-larious trials and tribulations of frustrated filmmaker Clifford Stern (Woody Allen) as he is forced by his disenchanted wife (Joanna Gleason) to direct a documentary about his successful and impossibly obnoxious brother-in-law Lester (a very amusing Alan Alda). However, Clifford is bewitched by one of the film's producers, a woman named Halley Reed (Mia Farrow).

The film, of course, ends with the separate protagonists meeting by happenstance at a wedding reception and engaging in a pseudo- philosophical discussion about the nature of guilt and the unfairness of the universe. And, Allen, of course, has to telegraph his nihilistic leanings by having amoral cad Judah 'walk off into the sunset', as it were, and Lilliputian moralist Clifford look morosely into the camera. An Oscar nominated script, people!

It just defies believe that the screenplay for this film was actually nominated for an Academy Award. How exactly can great Gordian farces like 'Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)', 'Kind Hearts and Coronets', 'Nuns on the Run', 'The Dinner Game', and 'Burn After Reading' be snubbed whilst blunderous trite like this gets a top mention? Now, I have always tried to respect the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their encouragement of higher technological and intellectual content in films, but really, the Academy is not doing themselves any favours by blindly bestowing Oscar nominations on venerated screenwriters just because they are venerated. It was bad enough that 'Raging Bull' lost to 'Ordinary People' for Best Picture in 1981 and that 'Miller's Crossing' was all but entirely snubbed during the 1991 Oscars.

Thankfully, Woody Allen's sophisticated and intermittently acerbic wit prevents the task of viewing this film from falling into a level of internal haemorrhage inducement. The acting is generally passable, too. And, to Allen's credit, he did make a penance for his sins with 2005's 'Match Point', a true Hitchcockian triumph whose screenplay was deservingly nominated for an Oscar.
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Who acted morally?
kjhylton2253 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Crimes and Misdemeanors follows the differing lives of multiple characters that are all intertwined by some common factors. The characters are all pursuing happiness, but the way in which they do this differs dramatically. Dr. Judah Rosenthal has been having an affair with Dolores and she has decided to come clean to Miriam, Dr. Rosenthal's wife. When Dr. Rosenthal finds the confession letter written by Dolores, he wants to end the affair, but Dolores has high hopes that Judah will leave his wife and family on behalf of her. Now Judah is faced with the conflict of whether to come clean to his wife or just get rid of Dolores to make it seem as if the affair never happened. Because Judah was raised in a religious family, he knows what he has done is wrong but knows he could ask forgiveness of his family, even though they will be hurt. Jack, Judah's brother, says he can "get rid" of Dolores if Judah pays him. Judah sees more happiness in his life with his wife and children and provides the funds for his brother to kill Dolores, but is instantly wrought with guilt when the deed is done. Judah considers turning himself in because he is sickened by his guilt, but Jack reminds him that turning himself in would also be turning his own brother in.

Cliff is living the married life, but does not find happiness in it anymore. While filming a documentary on his brother-in-law Lester, Cliff meets Hallie who he instantly becomes fond of. Cliff sees how happy he can be with Hallie, which makes him more inclined to end his marriage. Cliff wants to do what will make him happy and confesses his love to Hallie, but she says she is not ready and is going away for four months.

The movie picks up four months later at a wedding. Dr. Rosenthal is living a happy life with his family and has put his guilt in the back of his mind because he did not get caught. Cliff is separated from his wife and when he finally sees Hallie, she is with Lester and Cliff is heartbroken. This movie juxtaposes the life of a man who lives immorally yet ends up happy and the life of a man who lives more morally yet ends up sad.

From a utilitarian perspective, Judah made his decision based on the fact that his family would be destroyed if they knew of the affair; therefore making it seem as if it never existed was for the good of a greater amount of people. Because Cliff was looking out for his own self-interest, he ended up hurt because he did not consider the happiness of others, like Hallie's happiness. From the Kantian view, Judah was acting immorally because he lied and he was only acting in accordance of the advantage of himself and his family. Kant does not see happiness as the end, while Mill does. Kant would probably not consider Judah or Cliff to be acting morally because neither of them acted in accordance to duty, but rather in relation to their own happiness and the consequences that they thought would follow.
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Great performances and script.
suite9227 October 2016
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.
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Missed Demeanor
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.
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A flawed film but one that is interesting and ambitious as it delivers a look at the meaning of morals and ethics
bob the moo21 June 2004
Judah Rosenthal is a very successful ophthalmologist who has a wife and two grown children but has been having an affair for many years with Delores Paley. However she is threatening to expose their relationship as well as other financial dealings he was involved in. With no options left Judah confronts the ethical and moral issues and reaches out to his criminal brother to help him out with a permanent solution. Meanwhile documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern agrees to take the money and direct a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the brother in law he hates – Emmy award winning TV producer Lester. He takes the money even though he hates the work and gets to know the producer of the film, Halley Reed and falls for her despite him being married.

For all its many flaws, this is still a good film with a constantly interesting idea behind it and reasonable ambitions. The narrative is split into two threads that only temporarily come together at the very end of the film and this is part of the problem with the film – it doesn't hang together as a story or a film terribly well. The plot is more of a look at morals and ethics in terms of where we get them, what they mean and the destruction of the idea that 'good will out'. For that reason the two plots are not so much stories as nails for Woody to hang his points upon and this may annoy many looking for a better structure. However, once I got what he was doing I understood why it was this way and I focused on the ideas behind it. In that regard the film is still flawed but it is consistently interesting in it's arguments and debate – the film is structured well enough so that we aren't sure what it's conclusions will be. Those who criticise the film for it's conclusions are either very lucky or horribly naïve – the ending may be pessimist but it is one that many of us see supported in our lives and the lives of those around us.

The mix of material in the film is as flawed as the plots themselves. Judah's thread is necessarily dark and Cliff's is more comic; while both qualities work in their respective stories it is the uneasy and uneven mix between the two that doesn't quite work. However, as I've said, I still found this to be interesting enough in its content and ambitious enough in its aims to be more than worth watching. Of course many people will not give Woody Allen films a chance and will just assume he was trying to be funny but failed, or trying for a crime story but failed but then those people will just stick to multiplex action movies and rarely wander into the work of other American filmmakers (god forbid any non-US work). This is not to say that those that dislike this film are wrong, no, in fact I salute them for trying something that may not be their cup of tea; I just think it a shame that a film such as this will be dismissed by so many without them even watching it.

Anyway, ramble over. The cast are all pretty good. Allen plays his usual character but his real work here is as director and writer. He gives himself a handful of good lines and he does well to deliver his lighter side of the film even if he fails to mix the two threads. Landau is excellent as he carries the core of the debate throughout. It may be a Woody Allen film but the heart of it is with Landau and he delivers it really well with tangible moral complexities. Outside of these two the support cast are mainly good by having good actors in the cast as opposed to the 'star of the month' complex that he has had recently. Alda, Huston, Waterson, Farrow, Orbach and Victor Argo are all good additions even if they didn't all have a great deal to do.

Overall this is a good film even if it is one that is filled with flaws. The plots don't totally satisfy and hang together however it is hard to ignore that it is consistently interesting and serves as an interesting look at morals and ethics. Sure it isn't Allen's funniest film, nor his most serious, nor his most intelligent, nor his best structured but it is interesting, thought-provoking and well worth a watch.
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Pure Genius
NitemareHippieGirl11 August 2003
This movie amazed me. It's one of the most realistic films I've ever seen. Allen explores why humans do the things they do, good or bad. It showed me that life is fragile and that things happen that you would never expect. I don't want to spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it but the news Allen's character recieves about the proffesor who he is making a documentary about left me with my mouth hanging open.

This movie taught me that no matter how bad life gets for some reason we just keep on going. The last words of the proffesor that Allen's character was obsessed with sum up what I now consider the meaning of life. It was one of the few movies that changed my perception of the way I lived. I highly suggest it to anyone to see when they start to feel that life isn't worth it.
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Great dramatic Woody Allen movie
HotToastyRag17 September 2017
If you only think of Woody Allen movies as comedies, rent Crimes and Misdemeanors. This is a total drama, and a fantastic one at that! While it has similar themes of other Woody Allen movies, like infidelity, tons of characters, and religious discussions, this movie is an entirely different ball of wax. Woody was nominated for Best Director and Original Screenplay at the 1990 Oscars, rewarded for this bold change of pace in his films.

Martin Landau is married to Claire Bloom, but he's having an affair with Anjelica Huston. Anjelica isn't satisfied with the current situation, and she threatens to expose the affair to Claire unless Martin gets a divorce and marries her. Martin's mafia brother Jerry Orbach has some ideas about how to silence his mistress. Meanwhile, Woody Allen, an unhappily married documentary filmmaker, falls in love with his real-life honey Mia Farrow. I don't want to give away too much more of the plot, but rest assured, it's very intriguing.

Crimes and Misdemeanors is thoughtful, sad, hopeful, and philosophical. Martin Landau, who was nominated for an Oscar in this role, gives a fantastic performance, as does the rest of the cast. Be on the lookout for some familiar faces, including Sam Waterston, Alan Alda, Joanna Gleason, Gregg Edelman, and Daryl Hannah. Whether you're watching it for the acting or the story, you're in for a real treat.
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Crimes and Misdemeanors
oOoBarracuda10 July 2017
Crimes and Misdemeanors is the second film that Woody Allen collaborated with Sven Nykvist, but the first one that I have seen. Seeing Nykvist's name appear on screen as the Director of Photography on a Woody Allen film knowing how great a fan he was of Ingmar Bergman nearly made my heart explode. I can only imagine the glee Allen must have experience working with the man responsible for so many of the best shots in Bergman films. I have pretty diverse interests in life so it's not often that favorites of mine intersect so I suppose I lived a bit vicariously through Allen in the moment in which I read Nykvist's name. The 1989 feature of Woody Allen grapples with morality, serious questioning of religion, and the idea of damnation through exploring the life of an ophthalmologist who carried on an affair with a woman who threatened to tell his wife about his misdeeds. Struggling to regain control of his life, one man must determine which version of reality works for him.

Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) is an outstanding member of the community. An ophthalmologist by trade, Judah is always hosting lavish parties in his home and honored by the community. What no one would expect from Judah would be the idea that he would carry on an extra- marital affair. He and his wife seem to be happily married, nevertheless, Judah has been carrying on an affair for two years with a flight attendant he met on one of his business trips. As their affair lingers his mistress, Dolores Paley (Anjelica Huston) is of the belief that he will leave his wife and begin a life with her. When Judah denies that he ever indicated that he would leave his wife, Dolores becomes despondent and threatens to tell Judah's wife about everything that has happened between them. His brother Jack suggests that the only way to continue leading his picturesque life is by having Dolores murdered, and Jack has the means to make this happen. Suddenly struck with a bought of morals Judah is stressed over which option to choose. He admits that he doesn't love Dolores but he struggles with the idea of being responsible for ending the life of another human being. Judah also believes that his life will come crashing down if he were to tell his wife, as he feels she would be unable to forgive him. In the other moral story of the film the audience meets Cliff (Woody Allen) a man who is living in a marriage that's seemed to have lost its spark, in the bedroom anyway. Cliff is struggling, he wants to be a filmmaker but he refuses to succumb to the type of filming that is devoid of purpose and only exists to please an audience. Although he strays away from the type of work his wife's husband Lester does (Alan Alda), he takes a job wth the pompous, egotistical, philandering man to please his wife who is desperate for him to work for an income again. While shooting the documentary with Leser, Cliff meets Halley Reed (Mia Farrow) a divorcée who claims to have sworn off men. The pair's mutual disdain of Lester brings them together initially, but as they spend more time together Cliff falls in love and contemplates having an affair with Halley. Culminating in a party whereby the two stories converge, each man involved in their struggle must determine what level of morality they wish to exercise and what they allow to be their guiding set of principles.

--I'm not going to write about how incredible the opening speech praising Judah while he reminisces about the affair he's been having with for two years at establishing how highly looked upon Judah is in the community while he simultaneously grapples with a universally detestable act.-- It's funny what you start to notice when you watch several features of one artist's work. For instance, in the Woody Allen films I've watched recently, I'm noticing that the homes filmed have glorious built-in bookshelves that I am eternally jealous of. The image of Woody Allen sitting in a cinema with a film reflecting off his glasses may actually be all I need in life, or you know, a picture of that hanging in my home. Crimes and Misdemeanors was, surprisingly to me, one of Woody's more deliberative films. We even see Judah going back to his childhood home and reliving portions of his life in order to better decipher his moral compass. Equally as contemplative is Woody Allen's character questioning whether or not to engage in an affair only to discover the woman of his affection become engaged to his most sincere enemy. The look of betrayal and heartbreak on Allen's face when he sees Lester and Halley together celebrating their engagement is agonizing. Crimes and Misdemeanors is another Woody Allen film I don't hear talked about nearly enough as one of his best, and in a way I'm happy to keep stumbling upon these surprises.
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