Starring Martin Landau, Woody Allen and Alan Alda
Written & Directed by Woody Allen
In the calendar year of 2012, several film writers and bloggers all across the city of Toronto are taking part in what is being called the ‘Blind Spot Series’. To put it simply, we each put together a list of 12 films that in one circle or another are widely regarded as classic films that we have never seen and we review them from our unique first time viewing perspective. For the month of February we go all the way back to 1989 for the Academy Award nominated film wildly regarded as one of the many masterpieces in the oeuvre of works belonging to Woody Allen. It’s time to remove “Crimes and Misdemeanors” from this critic’s Blind Spot.
“Crimes and Misdemeanors” indicates the themes of two separate stories: 1) a renowned ophthalmologist (Landau) is desperate to cut off an adulterous relationship; and 2) an ethically frustrated documentary filmmaker woos an attractive television producer while making a film about her insufferably self-centered boss. Each man must examine his own morality and make an irrevocable decision that will change all of their lives forever.
For his 19th feature film outing, Woody Allen has managed to blend the sublime & the surreal all into one package that balances his some of his best efforts as a serious director with some of the funnier more farcical outings of his entire career. While the shifting back and forth from one narrative to another was occasionally jarring, these two similar stories that play out on a parallel with each other truly delved into the interesting mechanism and reasoning’s behind the choices we make, be they for love or for a love of survival. Beautifully shot by famous Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist with an underrated musical score that is occasionally haunting, this is a Woody Allen film that not only makes you laugh, but also puts you on edge all the while playing point/counterpoint looking at the kinds of choices that people can be faced with on their consequences or the lack their of. A beautiful marriage of Hollywood and reality rolled into one.
An excellent ensemble cast, led by the brilliant Martin Landau who earned his Oscar nod as Judah the morally compromised pillar of his community, an excellent portrayal of a man on the edge. As his counterpoint, Woody essentially played Woody as Cliff the likeable but slightly pathetic schmo just looking for love and not taking the risks necessary for it to become a reality. Alan Alda was hilarious as the pompous TV producer and foil as well as brother-in-law for Cliff to be envious of. Mia Farrow, Joanna Gleeson, Anjelica Huston, Sam Waterston and Jerry Orback rounded out the strong ensemble cast, as there wasn’t a single wasted word in this entire film and every one’s role was of key importance to make it all work.
At the end of the day, there are some minor flaws in “Crimes and Misdemeanors” but there are flaws in life. Not Woody’s best film, but without question this was his most interesting.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Crimes and Misdemeanors” is available at video stores across Toronto; click here for a list of some of the finer stores near you.
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