Woody Allen: Crimes and Misdemeanors

(USA, 1989, 104 mins, 35mm)
CAST Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach


"The eyes of God are on us always." Judah Rosenthal (Landau) is a respected and successful ophthamologist, a philanthropist with a wife, grown kids, and a mistress (Huston) who is becoming more than a nuisance. Frightened that she will ruin him, Judah contemplates the unthinkable, a crime that will resolve the problem once and for all…

Meanwhile, across town, documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) reluctantly embarks on a PBS profile of his vastly more successful brother-in-law, a smug and superficial sitcom creator (Alan Alda at his most unctuous). Cliff’s distaste for the job is offset by the presence of associate producer Halley (Mia Farrow), a divorcee who shares his taste for old movies.

Expertly weaving between comedy and tragedy ("if it bends, it’s funny; if it breaks, it isn’t," as Alda’s egomaniac is fond of saying), this is one of Allen’s finest movies, a dark, somber film that grapples with the philosophical implications of our own, seemingly in-built ethical limitations. The week of its release, the New York Times invited three religious experts to reflect on the film!

Shot in a wintery New York by Ingmar Bergman’s regular DP, Sven Nykvist, Crimes and Misdemeanors is a kind of corrective to the far warmer and more forgiving Hannah and Her Sisters. Writing in 2005, Roger Ebert placed both among Allen’s four best films, alongside Annie Hall and Match Point.

"His best and most courageous work to date." Stanley Kauffman, New Republic (1989)