Crimes and Misdemeanor

Synopsis: A film about humanity.

Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) is a wealthy, revered as a pillar of society. But his world begins to crumble around him when his mistress of many years (Anjelica Houston) threatens to expose their affair & Judah’s questionable financial deals to his loving, unsuspecting wife (Claire Bloom). Desperate, he seeks the advice of both his brother Jack (Jerry Orbach) who has dubious ties to the mob & one of his patients, Rabbi Ben (Sam Waterston)- who is going blind. Jack suggests that the problem be taken care of “permanently” while the Rabbi tells Judah he should come clean in the eyes of God & take a chance & tell his wife. Judah doesn’t take any chances- & he chooses to get rid of Dolores.

Crimes and Misdemeanor 8.0

I’m not a fan of Woody Allen’s pure dramas, generally speaking; I think that they’re usually pretty mundane and lacking freshness. I can easily count the few that really work for me, although his dramedies are usually quite good.

But this one I quite liked. It was my second time, a decade having passed since I first saw it, and it is still potent.

I don’t really know my Shakespeare very well, but I felt that this one had a Shakespearian quality to it: one of the main stories is about a man who struggles with his conscience as he deals with the consequences of his infidelity and improper business decisions. Some of the devices Allen uses are flashbacks, internal monologues (played in voice-over), imagining having dialogues with characters that aren’t actually there, …etc.

It’s about the choices we make and the role of God and morality in everyday life, and I think that it worked very well this time, in part due to the gravitas of Martin Laudau’s performance; while his character’s decisions are all wrong and he finds twisted ways to justify himself, it’s hard to not get involved in his dilemna. Landau may be an under-rated actor, seeing as he’s mostly known for his years on TV in Mission Impossible and Space: 1999. Unfortunate.

Anyway, I know that some people were very keen on Allen’s ‘Match Point’ but, considering that the themes and plot elements are similar, I’d say ‘Match Point’ was basically a case of coasting a little bit. And this one is the clear winner.

In fact, I think I might eventually give it an 8.5. But, right now, I’m erring on the side of caution – if only because these themes are so familiar after having watched so MUCH Woody Allen lately that I don’t know that I’m completely clear-headed.

What do you think?

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