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Crimes and Misdemeanors

" I remember my father telling me, "The eyes of God are on us always

"The man who remembers is Judah Rosenthal, a respected ophthalmologist and community leader. As Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors opens, he is being honored at a banquet. He lives on three acres in Connecticut, drives a Jaguar, built a new wing on the hospital. During the course of the movie he will be responsible for the murder of a woman who loves him."

"She dies not because of his passion but for his convenience. In this darkest and most cynical Allen comedy -- yes, comedy -- he not only gets away with murder but even finds it possible, after a few months, to view the experience in a positive light. If the eyes of God are on him always, what does that say about God?"

"Judah, played by Martin Landau as a man of probity and vast self-importance, is, or thinks he is, a moral man. That has not prevented him from having an affair for two years with Dolores (Anjelica Huston), a flight attendant with whom he has walked on the beach and discussed marriage. But Judah will never divorce his wife, Miriam (Claire Bloom), to marry Dolores. Nor is he capable of confessing his sin to Miriam: "Miriam won't forgive me," he tells a rabbi. "She'll be broken. She idealizes me." That the conversation with the rabbi is imaginary takes away nothing from its ruthlessness. What Judah is arguing is that Dolores must die because if Miriam found out about the affair it would -- what? Destroy Miriam? Dolores? No, it would destroy his image and stature in the eyes of his wife and his community, and he thinks that is worth killing for."

"The movie intercuts this tragic story with a comedy, also about adultery. The technique is Shakespearean: The crimes of kings are mirrored for comic effect in the foibles of the lower orders. Allen plays Cliff Stern, a maker of documentaries of stultifying boredom; in one, an old man in thick glasses discusses metaphysics. Cliff is married to Wendy (Joanna Gleason). She has two brothers: Ben (Sam Waterston), the rabbi, who is going blind and is being treated by Judah, and Lester (Alan Alda), the creator of incredibly successful TV sitcoms."

"The implications of 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' are bleak and hopeless. The evil are rewarded, the blameless are punished, and the rabbi goes blind. To be sure, justice is done in the low-road plot: Cliff does not succeed in leaving his wife to marry a girl for whom he would be the worst possible partner, and the rich and triumphant Lester gets the girl and will possibly make her happy, or at least rich. But in the main story Dolores lies in her grave, and Judah finds that life goes on -- for him, at least. For Martin Landau, the performance is a masterpiece of smooth, practiced diplomacy, as he glides through life and leaves his problems behind. Landau is never more effective than when he is shocked and dismayed at his own behavior. It's as if he's regarding himself from outside, with a kind of fascination. He sees what he does, and does nothing to stop it. In his own world, he is the eyes of God. " ------ Roger Ebert


  • Widescreen
  • Available subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Colliectible Booklet

Curator's Comments:
Read Roger Ebert's essay on this DVD Classic.

Director: Woody Allen
104 minutes
Released: 1989
Rated: PG-13

Country: U.S.A.
Language: English
Genre:Comedy, Drama


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