Saturday, June 25, 2011

#243 Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)


Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Claire Bloom, Stephanie Roth, Mia Farrow, Jerry Orbach, Bill Bernstein, Martin Landau, Greg Edelman, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jenny Nichols, Joanna Gleason

Another example of Woody Allen's best work, Crimes and Misdemeanors is witty, adult, dark, philosophical, stark, and sumptuous. It follows two leads down two very different struggles, both happening simultaneously in Manhattan (where else?). Martain Landau plays an inspiring (and Oscar-nominated) role as Judah Rosenthal, a successful, married, and highly respected eye surgeon who is fed up with living a double life. When his mistress of two years, Dolores (Huston), threatens to expose their relationship to his wife (as well as reveal some shady embezzling Judah has done), Judah realizes he must take a drastic move to end his extra-curricular affair once and for all. Lost on what to do or where to turn, he goes to his brother Jack (Orbach), who convinces Judah to take Dolores out. "My people will take care of it. You won't be a part of it."

Meanwhile, somewhere else on the island, Woody Allen is living as Cliff Stern, a documentary film-maker with a not-so-successful track record in his career and a crumbling marriage. Forced to take a job to be his ridiculous brother-in-law's (Alda) biographer, he meets Halley (Farrow). The two grow as friends until Cliff finds himself madly in love with her, to a point that his paranoia over his brother-in-law's lame advances on Halley almost drive him mad.

The film celebrates Allen's familiar existentialist tone... and convinces us that only New Yorker's really know how to fuck up relationships properly. Alan Alda shines as a pretentious dope, and Woody's neurosis wiggles and trills off the screen until you feel like you yourself may walk away from this movie bumbling and wringing your hands together. In a Dovstoyevskian conclusion, the film examines the nature of the human conscience, the theme of religious guilt brought on by tradition, and the hopelessness of having hope.

Another Woody Allen classic that I'd happily recommend onto a friend.