Crimes and MisdemeanorsOctober 13, 1989
An opthamologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman.
Release Year: 1989
Rating: 8.0/10 (24,304 voted)
Critic's Score: 77/100
Stars: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Bill Bernstein
Opthalmologist Judah Rosenthal has had an affair with Dolores for several years, and now she threatens to ruin his life if he doesn't marry her. When his brother Jack suggests to have Dolores murdered, Judah is faced with a big moral dilemma: destruction of his life or murder. Meanwhile, documentary filmmaker Clifford Stern is trying to make a film of a philosophy professor, but instead he's commissioned to make a portrait of succesful TV producer and brother-in-law Lester, who to Clifford represents everything that he despises.
Stephanie Roth Haberle
(as Stephanie Roth)
George J. Manos
(as George Manos)
(as Joel S. Fogel)
A film about humanity.
Release Date: 13 October 1989
Filming Locations: 5th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Box Office Details
Did You Know?
Martin Landau was originally cast as Jack Rosenthal.
When Judah decides to have Delores killed, he only dials seven digits on the phone calling his brother, Jack. Judah lives in Connecticut and Jack lives in New York, so he would have to dial at least 10 digits to call him.
We're all very proud of Judah Rosenthal's philanthropic efforts. His endless hours of fund raising for the hospital, the new medical center, and now, the ophthalmology wing, which until this year had just been a dream. But it's due to Rosenthal our friend that we most appreciate. The husband, the father, the golf companion. Naturally if you have a medical problem you can call Judah…
You're blushing darling.
…day or night, weekends or holidays. But you can also call Judah to find out which is the best restaurant in Paris – or Athens. Or which hotel to stay at in Moscow. Or the best recording of a particular Mozart symphony…
Brilliant, probably Woody's best and most focused
"Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) was the masterful culmination of Woody
Allen's dramatic period in the 80's, in which he made brilliant movies
like "Hannah and Her Sisters", "Another Woman" or "September". In these
movies he tried his best to play with Ingmar Bergman's narrative and
aesthetic preoccupations, which are incidentally also Allen's. He has
also always been successful at incorporating wit and comedy into the
dramatic arc. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors" he confronts two
philosophies of life with each other. And once the two story lines are
set into motion, almost every scene plays off the theme of the movie.
We meet Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a successful and beloved
doctor. Coming home with his family from a gala, he finds a letter from
his mistress Dolores (Angelica Huston); addressed to his wife. Judah
meets Dolores in her apartment, where she explains her deep
dissatisfaction with the current situation. She wants Judah on her own,
whereas he feels that this affair is getting out of hand and wants to
end it. Consecutively Dolores begins to threaten him with uncovering a
fund theft he was involved in and with admitting their affair to his
wife. Judah cannot see out of this predicament and calls up his Mafioso
brother (Jerry Orbach) to help him getting rid of her.
Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) on the other hand is a struggling documentary
filmmaker, married to a woman who stopped having sex with him a year
ago and who would rather see him work than not. So Cliff goes against
his principles and takes the job kindly given to him by his wife's
brother Lester (Alan Alda), a millionaire TV producer. Cliff has to
follow Lester around New York to document his visions for a TV program.
On the job he meets Halley Reed (Mia Farrow), an associate producer,
who gets interested in his work of passion, a documentary about a
Jewish philosopher. At the same time Cliff begins to take interest in
Cliff is portrayed by Allen as a humble, wise and cynical man, who
never managed to connect his aspirations to the demands of the real
world. He has nothing to offer except his love and knowledge. This
enables him to be a mentor to his young niece, but does not profit him
in his relationship with Halley. The little girl also works as a
stand-in for Cliff's conversations with his conscience. This device is
made clearer in Rosenthal's segments, where he confides himself to a
So we have a dual storyline, where one section is morally repugnant and
the other one is idealistic. The rabbi tells Rosenthal that their
conversations are always about two views of life. One believes in a
harsh world, empty of values and with a pitiless moral structure, while
the other sees meaning and forgiveness and a higher power. Rosenthal
has heard similar things before, since he was raised very religiously.
"The eyes of God are on us always", advised his father. And when it
came to the question of God's existence he would add: "In case of doubt
I will always choose God over truth." But Judah cannot let God
interfere when he plans to kill his lover. He feels guilt, alright, but
people get used to circumstances. We deny and try to forget.
When in Cliff's segment the Jewish professor commits suicide, it comes
as a shock. Suddenly a philosophical system has been taken away. Isn't
that one of the things we fear the most? To realize that our beliefs
are incomplete and wrong. This understanding only tightens as the movie
progresses. The rabbi is going blind, morality has lost. In the end the
film is a sobering account of how immorality, deceit and its more
harmless companions prevail.
I feel Allen had to let the downbeat ending happen, to express a fear
of his. In the 90's he would often return to lighter themes. This
expresses his curiosity in all aspects of existence. Light and darkness
coexist. Tonally "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is not a dark movie. Allen
repeatedly breaks up an emotional scene with a punch-line. But Allen is
always consistent in his tone, whatever subjects or periods he chooses.
He is a tough worker, who has made 33 movies since 1969, which amounts
to roughly one movie a year. "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is the clearest
in its vision and among his very best.