Crimes and Misdemeanors Cover Can someone really get away with murder? You know what I mean, right? As if 'person A' killed 'person B', and then just got away with it Scott-free!  Moreover, and this is the case, what would happen to society if this was part of a norm? Interesting dilemma, don't you think? And one depicted in this film Directed by and Starring Woody Allen, with Martin Landau, Mia Farrow, and Angelica Huston. It was made in 1989, and lasts for 104-minutes.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Judah Rosenthal and Cliff Stern (Martin Landau and Woody Allen) are two very different people. Now Judah is an age-ed ophthalmologist, with a successful practice, a loving family, and a privileged lifestyle. Whereas Cliff is a middle aged documentarian, with an unsuccessful career, a sister with a sad love-life, and a lifestyle involving him taking his niece to the movies.

Still, they seem to have a lot on common in many other ways you know.

JUDAH'S STORY: I am afraid to say that Judah has done a very foolish thing. For two long years now, he has been having an affair with stewardess, Dolores (Anjelica Huston). And suddenly, out of the blue, Dolores wants to tell Judah's wife about it.

So, in haste, Judah tries to resolve this problem any which way he can. Firstly, he attempts to reason with Dolores, and sort this dilemma out in a reasonable manner - not that this does him any good. Next, Judah goes to his college, Ben the Optometrist, for some diplomatic advice - which does not do him any good either. And finally, Judah visits his gangster brother, Jack (Jerry Orbach), to see what he suggests.

Ooops! Bad idea - because what Jack suggests to Judah isn't something he is very comfortable with (i.e. bang-bang-bang). However, Judah only agrees to Jacks suggestion, when Dolores then continues to hound him at some very importune times. 

As time passes though, Jack starts to feel the error of his ways, and his mind goes haywire about what he has been a part of. He recollects - he stresses - and he vents - but...

CLIFF'S STORY: Cliff is a man with one big irritation. No - it isn't anything to do with his loveless marriage - he's fine with that. And it isn't anything to do with his wife's younger brother, Ben the Optometrist, either - he likes him. It's his wife's other brother, Lester (Alan Alda).

You see, Lester is a flourishing comedy director, who is a womaniser, a pompous braggart, plus in addition to this, is somewhat reluctant to allow Cliff to make a documentary about him.

Ooops! Bad Idea - because Cliff can not stand the sight of Lester also, and he is only willing to make this movie about him for the cash. Moreover, he finds a like minded spirit whilst making this movie as well, Halley Reed (Mia Farrow).

However, as time passes, a lot of things change for both Lester and Halley. Lester starts to feel closer and closer to her. While Halley does not, and she has to leave for London on other work commitments. Worst still, is that Cliff takes out his frustration in subverting his documentary about Lester, but...

FOUR MONTHS LATER: At the wedding of Ben the Optometrist daughter, things for both Cliff and Judah are a lot different than they once were. And you know what else if different? These two men meet up at this occasion, and they have a little chat together too.

The End?

In my most humble estimation, 'Crimes and Misdemeanours' is what I would like to call "a thinking mans comedy". Well, on the one hand, this dual-strand tale is very deep in its tone and it execution. Whilst, on the other hand, it's overall narrative is very pithy at times, and does border on the jovial.

Though for me to explain what I mean by this, I have to split this review into four parts. With one section relating to Woody's bit of the movie, another section relating to John's bit of the movie, and the subsequent two sections relating to facts and my overall summation. 

Woody and John in Crimes and Misdemeanors

Now to be perfectly honest with you, Woody's section of this film was a mixed bag for me all in all. Please note, I did like Woody in it - as Woody does Woody to a tea. And in addition to this, I did enjoy watching Alan Alda and Mia Farrow too - as they held their own very well in this film, making their respective roles very memorable indeed. What I had the problem with, is the overall story that Woody wanted to relay.

You see, in essence, this part of the story was about how a delusional documentarian wanted to make a personal project, but instead got lumbered filming someone he hates - i.e. Alan Alda's character. Plus, on top of that, Woody's character is in a love less marriage, and fancies someone else - i.e. Mia Farrow's character. So what the hell was he doing this situation for to begin with? Moreover, why doesn't he just make the 'sell out movie', get the cash, and do whatever he wants to do next?

Simple, huh? And that is what I found slightly off putting with Woody's story - not the actors - on a certain degree it was unreliable, unlike...

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Now I have to confess, on first watching 'Crime and Misdemeanours', I did not quite understand John's part of the story. Honestly, half of me was waiting for Woody to turn up half way though it, and add to John's dilemma.

However, on a subsequent viewing, something clicked within me, and I took this part of the story on face value. And do you know what? I loved it! I loved John's mannered demeanour, I loved Angela's sullen disposition, and I appreciated what this tale was all about.

Well, lets face it, getting away with murder, and then living with it, is a lofty and ethical dilemma, is it not? Moreover, the way that this tale played out a stage at the time, really did elevate the pathos and the essence of morality, and how past experiences can temper your future path.   


Mia and Woody in Crimes and Misdemeanors

(1) The role of Professor Louis Levy was played by a non-actor and therapist friend of Woody's, Martin S. Bergmann. (2) A whole third of this film comprised Woody's and Mia's characters shooting a documentary on old vaudevillians. However, this section was drastically altered in the making and the editing of the piece. Firstly, Sean Young's and Daryl Hannah's roles were greatly reduced in post production - due to a conflict of plot. And secondly, Alan Alda's part was greatly increased - going so far as to expand his role on set. (3) This film was Woody's response to his 'niceness' in 'Hanna and Her Sisters'. And (4) The character of Lester was based on Larry Gelbart, someone who Woody and Alan both worked with in the past and disliked.

All in all this is a really great film. It's one third funny - one third perplexing - and one third Woody. And in my book that is all a great movie is needs to be.

Also, I have to mention that I did appreciate the 'sub-tales' in this movie, the 'transitions' in this movie, and the 'Optometrists' section' also. Personally speaking, I did like how 'Ben the Optometrist' acted as a common ground between the two tales. Though, I would have liked Woody to have had some more interaction with him as well.

The Cast of Crimes and Misdemeanors

Still, we can't win them all? Or can we? ha!

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Reviewed by David Andrews on March 27, 2012 Rating: 5
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