Woody Allen tackles morality and murder in CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, starring Martin Landau as Judah Rosenthal, an ophthalmologist esteemed by family, friends and colleagues. Judah has a less admirable secret life: his mistress, Dolores (Anjelica Huston), is determined to reveal their
affair to his wife (Claire Bloom), and threatens to expose his past embezzling. Judah decides he has no choice but to have her killed, helped by his underworld-connected brother (Jerry Orbach). Allen also introduces a humorous story line involving a politically committed documentary filmmaker,
Cliff Stern (Allen), his egotistical commercial TV director brother-in-law (Alan Alda), and a TV producer (Mia Farrow) with whom Cliff falls in love. Only in the film's dark final scene do Judah and Cliff finally meet, both struggling with their ideas of right and wrong, morality and immorality,
crimes and misdemeanors.
Allen is an auteur who often defines his artistic vision in reference to those of other filmmakers, and it becomes increasingly difficult for educated viewers to take his creative borrowings on good faith. In one scene here he restages a sequence from Ingmar Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES nearly
shot-for-shot, a dubious act of homage. Nevertheless Allen's expertise is evident everywhere in CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, with its fine ensemble acting (Alda and Huston are outstanding), evocative composition and design, intelligent writing, and spritely musical score.
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