Saturday, February 12, 2011

799. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Running Time: 107 minutes
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen
Main Cast: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Alan Alda


The final leg of the Woody Allen movies, as they exist within the pages of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", "Crimes and Misdemeanors" was an Allen film that I once considered my favorite of his work. This time around I didn't regard it so highly, but still hold it in high regard.

Once again we're treated to two stories that are very loosely connected by the characters that play in each of them. In the first, and darker of the two stories, Martin Landau is Judah Rosenthal, a very successful eye surgeon who is paying dearly for years of infidelity. When his mistress Dolores (Huston) threatens him by telling him that she is going to go to his wife and confess everything, he turns to his criminal brother (Jerry Orbach) for help. In the other, more light-hearted story, Woody Allen is Cliff Stern, an ailing documentary filmmaker who has decided to take a job producing a documentary about his successful sitcom writer brother-in-law Lester (Alda), whom he hates, citing that he is a pompous bore. Along the way, Cliff falls head over heels for the executive producer of the project, Halley (Farrow), whom he gets along with due to their common interests and wants to pursue something with her, despite the fact that his is currently married.


Once again, there's no use even mentioning the cast, as Allen obviously assembled a great one once again. I loved Martin Landau and it is his story that is the focal point of the film for me. In fact, and I can't even believe I'm saying this, if Woody would have cut his own story from the film and made the entire film a drama regarding Judah Rosenthal and his problems, this could have been one of the greatest movies of all time. Not that I hated the Allen/Alda/Farrow story, because I didn't, I just took more to the Landau/Huston story. It was also nice to see Sam Waterston get a more prominent role this time around too and I also loved seeing Jerry Orbach in there. Speaking of Waterston, he is involved in the most powerful scene of the film, when Judah imagines him and has a discussion about morals with him in Judah's living room. It's such a strong scene, as the two argue while maintaining whisper tones and debate on right and wrong, murder, infidelity and forgiveness.

I'm not really sure why my opinion went down this time around, I really have no excuse or even negative criticism. I just know that in watching these six Allen film, it was "Manhattan" that I enjoyed the most of them, with "Hannah and Her Sisters" coming in second and this one in third. However, I'll never forget the first time I saw "Crimes and Misdemeanors". It was near the end of my Allen watching quest and with no more proof needed to consider Allen one of the greatest filmmaker's of all-time, I see another home run smacked out of the park by the "Woodman". I remember loving this film so much and immediately deeming it my favorite of all his work. I think the thing I love about Allen, is that my opinion of his greatest film has changed so many times, not because of my indecisiveness, but because he has SO MANY great movies, that it's just impossible to stay married to one. I guess you could say as far as Allen films go, that I'm as much of an infidel as Judah Rosenthal.


I had a great time reliving these six pictures from Woody Allen and writing down some of my thoughts on them. It excites me to write about things that I am passionate about and Woody Allen films are a certain passion of mine. I guess now I'm ready for Tuesday and the release of "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" which I absolutely cannot wait for.

I guess in the end, the thing I love most about Woody Allen movies is that they allow me to peer into the lives of people in another class as me. We're more often than not viewing upper middle class New Yorkers, who take vacations to Connecticut and throw dinner parties. People who have relationship struggles and analysts to tell their troubles to. I don't know why, but Allen's entire universe just interests me so much. Even the way he passionately films the city of New York is breathtaking. I've never had any particular interest in visiting The Big Apple, but when I watch a Woody movie, I so want to be sitting under a tree in the middle of Central Park or walking downtown, going to my favorite of thousands of restaurants.

As a last bit of information for you, I guess I should tell you that the film I ALWAYS cite as my personal favorite Allen flick was not included in the "1001" book and that would be "Manhattan Murder Mystery". I've always loved this film and probably because it's the first Woody Allen movie I ever saw, way back when I didn't even know who Woody Allen was or that he was even a prominent filmmaker. I'm sure that opinion will flip flop as time goes by, but for now, I won't pick a favorite, instead I'll just suffice it to say that I am a Woody Allen fan in general.

RATING: 8/10 Great film that just didn't do it for me as much as some of the others did. Still it comes with the highest of recommendations.


February 12, 2011 3:31pm

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