Tuesday, June 13, 2006

#14- Crimes and Misdemeanors- Woody Allen- 1989

"We're all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions, moral choices. Some are on a grand scale, most of these choices are on lesser points. But we define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices. 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."

The idea of death, of consequence and of the battle between religion and fate is one that runs through most of Woody Allen's films. IN Crimes and Misdemeanors we get two overlapping stories of morals. One is straight drama, the other is ridiculous comedy. The pacing, the editing and the writing of this film is unbelievable. Thanks to Allen for that. With an intense cast, a serious and intriguing subject matter and excellent insights, C&M is one of Allens best and, obviously enough, one of the best films I've ever seen.

I will talk about this film in the halves by which it is split starting with the serious half. The story of Judah is riveting and edge-of-your-seat drama. I have never been held with such suspense in a drama than in this film. Judah's story revolves on infidelity, murder and how to cover up guilt or if guilt is even a question in doing unspeakable crimes. None of this is giving away stuff. It's in the title, so you know stuff is going to go down. Judah is played by Martin Landau. His bone chilling acting will make you question your faith, your morals and the difference between right and wrong.

Then there is the comedic side to this film. Although the overall outcome of this half isn't exactly super happy and hilarious, Woody Allens part as Cliff will bring the comedic relief. Cliff is in a troubled marriage. His wife basically hates him and doesn't listen to him. His only joy is his work, which is documentary filmmaking. Not too lucrative. He is in the shadow of his brother in law Lester, a big time TV producer who produces crap (played by Alan Alda in one of his finest screen moments) who's philosophy of comedy is "Comedy is tragedy plus time!" Cliff falls for Halley (Mia Farrow) who is working on the Documentary Cliff begrudgingly starts working on about Lester. He contemplates infidelity with her but is torn between his duty as a husband and his love for Halley. Ultimately he holds off as Lester becomes interested in Halley and they soon find each other.

The supporting cast in this film is remarkable. With Mia Farrow, Alan Alda, Jerry Orbach, Sam Waterston (Law and Order What!), Anjelica Huston and others, you get a power packed performance from all parties. The writing and dialogue is so tight that every last bit of the film seems real. None of the characters seem useless even if they get small amounts of screen time. They all have a purpose.

It's all about the severity of moral choices. Is a crime really a crime if no one knows who commited it? Is a crime of the heart that is never followed through more damaging then one that is taken to the end? What is the role of God in the world? Is there a God? What is existence all about? Of course, I need to thank Professor Touey for making me watch this film in Philosophy & Film (along with many other gems.) If it wasn't for this movie and the readings of Sartre and such tagged on to it, I would have looked at it as another film in Allen's huge catalogue. Instead its my second favorite of his and one of the best movies I have ever seen. Films that make you think are the only way to fly.


Lily Graypure said...

Thanks for the comment. That link was pretty funny. I want one of the teeshirts.

Your blog reminds me of how uncultured I am. I haven't seen half of these films. There's a cool film gene that I appear to be missing. I just keep waiting for you to put "Wild Hearts Can't be Broken" up on your list. ;-)

PatrickH said...

What is it with La Salle professors and this film? Dr. Kerlin makes all his students watch this in his freshman general philosophy class.

j. leo said...

Broj made us do this as well. Ask Ryan about my acting stint as Alan Alda. That was fun shit.