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Plot: An ophthalmologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman. Runtime: 104 mins Release Date: 03 Nov 1989
Brilliant, probably Woody's best and most focused (by schnofel)
"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 <more>
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 <more>
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.
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 <more>
two hours of his life watching yet another Hollywood crap.
I Have Seen the Righteous Forsaken (by JamesHitchcock)
"I have been young, and now am not too old; And I have seen the righteous forsaken, His health, his honour and his quality taken. This is not what we were formerly told". This is how the English poet Edmund Blunden addressed the philosophical question of why bad things happen to good people and vice versa . "Crimes and Misdemeanors" represents Woody Allen's attempt to tackle the same issue. Like this year's "Melinda and Melinda" it combines humorous and serious stories, but is a far better work. "Melinda and Melinda" suffers because its related <more>
plot lines are artificially forced into the trite and over-schematic framework of a debate over dinner between two playwrights as to whether life is comic or tragic. Moreover, the supposedly "tragic" story seemed insufficiently serious to merit that description. "Crimes and Misdemeanors" has two plot lines; one, which may be thought of as "Crimes" tragic, the other, which may be thought of as "Misdemeanors", tragi-comic. The first concerns Judah Rosenthal, a successful New York ophthalmologist. Judah brilliantly played by Martin Landau is well-respected and regarded as a pillar of the community, but his private life is a mess. Unknown to his wife and family, Judah has been having an affair with Dolores, an air hostess. Dolores wants him to leave his wife for her; when he refuses to do so, Dolores threatens not only to inform his wife but also to reveal certain financial irregularities in his practice which could ruin his reputation. In order to silence Dolores, Judah turns to his brother Jack, a gangster with underworld connections, who offers to have her murdered. The other plot line concerns Clifford Stern, an idealistic but unsuccessful director of documentary films. Clifford is offered the job of directing the filmed biography of his own brother-in-law Lester, a successful producer. Under pressure from his wife, Clifford accepts, but only reluctantly as he despises the shallow, conceited and Philistine Lester. Clifford's own marriage is in trouble and during the making of the film he meets, and begins an affair with, Halley, Lester's assistant. Halley shares Clifford's idealism and they plan to make a documentary about Louis Levy, a philosopher whose work Clifford admires. This is one of Woody's darkest films, both physically and morally. Most of the action takes place in darkened interiors, and the predominant tones- browns, greys and dull yellows and oranges- are sombre. Morally, the film seems at least at first sight to reflect a world in which evil triumphs over good. Judah, after agreeing to Jack's suggestion that they should have Dolores murdered, is initially plagued by feelings of guilt, but as time passes and he realises that the police do not suspect him of involvement in the crime, these feelings fade away and he resumes his old life. Louis Levy commits suicide, which causes Clifford to doubt the optimistic, life-affirming philosophy he had taught. On a less serious level, Clifford is sacked from his job by the odious Lester, who even manages to seduce Halley away from him. The mood is lightened by occasional touches of characteristic Allen humour, mostly from Woody himself as Clifford, but much of this is of a dark, cynical nature, more so even than in most of his movies. "I don't know from suicide, y'know. Where I grew up in Brooklyn we were too unhappy to commit suicide". Yet the film is not, in my view, dominated by pessimism to the utter exclusion of all else. It is that rare thing, a Woody Allen film that takes a positive view of religion. Elsewhere, his attitude has generally been one of religious scepticism, such as in "Hannah and Her Sisters" where Woody's character, suffering from a crisis of existential angst, adopts several religions only to reject them all in favour of a "live for today" philosophy. Here, however, religious and secular views of life are contrasted, and not always to the detriment of the former. Woody has often used his Jewishness for comic effect; here he raises some more serious points about Jewish identity, as the religion-versus-secularism debate takes place in the context of Judaism rather than Christianity. Judah was brought up as an Orthodox Jew, but has rejected his religious faith in favour of a bleak, nihilistic world-view, unable to accept his father's idea that the eyes of God see everything. Images of the eye and of sight are important in this film . Some of the most important scenes in the film are the conversations between Judah and one of his patients, a Rabbi named Ben. Although Ben another very good performance from Sam Waterstone is slowly losing his sight, his religious faith enables him to bear the prospect of blindness with stoicism and he never loses his belief in a higher power or in an essential moral order in the universe. He may lose his sight in a physical sense, but in a moral sense he can see more clearly than any other character in the film. This is not a religious film in the sense that, say, "The Passion of the Christ" is a religious film. Woody is always too much of a pessimist ever to echo Blunden's conclusion that "Over there are faith, love, virtue in the sun". Nevertheless, it is a film which like two other great Woody films of the late eighties, "Hannah" and "The Purple Rose of Cairo" discusses themes of philosophical and theological import and one that acknowledges the power of faith in peoples' lives. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul? It is those who have succeeded in worldly terms, Judah and Lester, who have, metaphorically if not literally, lost their souls, whereas Ben and Clifford, less blessed by worldly success, have retained their integrity. 9/10
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, <more>
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.
What if "Instant Karma" won't actually get you? (by dindi-se)
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 <more>
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?
Two discrete plots in one excellent movie (by Red-125)
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 <more>
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,
A Movie That Shows there is no Absolute Answer (by dallasryan)
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 <more>
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.
Slyly written, handsomely made serio-comic Woody Allen... (by moonspinner55)
Writer-director Woody Allen smoothly examines the parallels between a nervous documentary filmmaker in love with an indifferent female producer and a celebrated family man contemplating having his frustrated, frustrating mistress bumped off. A serious-comedy, saddled with a bit of pretentious banter as well as a draggy sub-plot with Sam Waterston as a rabbi losing his sight. Still, the incredibly rich performances from a well-chosen group of actors strengthen the film, including Woody as the filmmaker, Alan Alda as his egomaniacal film subject and brother-in-law, Mia Farrow, Martin Landau in <more>
the film's best turn , Anjelica Huston, Caroline Aaron and Jerry Orbach. One of Allen's finest endeavors, cleverly-maneuvered and sly; it is by turns witty, beguiling, funny and ironic. ***1/2 from ****