Posted by: kfugrip | October 22, 2007

One hundred three: Crimes and Misdemeanors

Crimes and Misdemeanors, written and directed by Woody Allen, was a revelation.  Woody Allen has his moments as a filmmaker, moments of piercing insight and beauty, and this film has many of those moments.

This was also one of the films that Paul Schrader had listed in the appendix of his article about a film canon.  I was amazed that it was listed before Annie Hall.  Now I understand why.

Crimes and Misdemeanors is about two men, played by Martin Landau and Woody Allen, living disperate lives but dealing with decisions involving their marriages.  Landau is dealing with his nuerotic ex-mistress who is threatening to expose their affair to his wife, and Allen is living in a sexless marriage and falling in love with a coworker, played by Mia Farrow.  The crimes of the title are interpreted literally as a murder, and the two characters meet at the end and have a brief conversation about their lives, and by extension, what they’ve learned during the film.

What I liked:  Everything.  I loved this film.  Woody Allen is at the top of his game here, directing sensitive and realistic performances and using inventive staging of long takes.  The dialog is smart and revealing without being “stagie”.  The fantasy sequences and flashbacks are seamlessly incorporated into the whole.  In particular I liked the scene where, after the murder, Landau speaks to an imaginary rabi.  The rabi, played by Sam Waterson, stands in the background in soft focus with Landau in the foreground.  It was a perfect scene.

The story of Landau’s character and the guilt he feels after the murder of his mistress was epic and very human.  His performance, combined with some of the techniques that Allen uses with the camera like the push into a close-up after Landau gets the news, was brilliant.  It seems like a cliche as I write it but it works in the film because we, the audience, are entirely wrapped up in Landau’s tale.

 What I didn’t like:  Not much.  I find Woody Allen a bit unbelievable as a romantic character.  That’s about it.

5 stars




  1. wow. i thought this was good, but i clearly didn’t realize how much you loved it.

    i have to disagree with you a little bit because while i thought there were some brilliant moments and it was well written, filmed and acted (and it does move towards the top of my Woody Allen films list), there were some major problems for me, most especially the fact that the female characters, with the exception of Farrow, were largely bad characatures of “female types” and even Farrow in the end reverts to “type”, thus kind of killing the credit i was giving her well-developed character throughout the film.

    also, i pretty much hated how Landau and Allen’s characters came together at the end. it seemed tacked on and uninspiring.

  2. What “type” was Mia Farrow at the end?

  3. the “type” that seems to be the great genuine girl that will go for the brilliant loser (allen) but in the end she goes for the rich vapid totally inane sorta handsome guy, just like us predictable women “types” always do.

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