Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pose Reviews A Movie. #26: Crimes And Misdemeanors (1989)

At its most basic, Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors is a movie about love gone wrong.

Horribly, horribly wrong.

But then again, why does it feel so right?

I liked Crimes and Misdemeanors a lot. In a recent discussion with a friend, I described it as a sort of renovation of Allen's 2005 feature, Match Point.

"It's sort of like Match Point done right," I said.

"But I liked Match Point!" said she.

"Then you'll love Crimes and Misdemeanors!" I said. "It's basically the same thing, except it's funny rather than ridiculously dramatic, and instead of Scarlett Johansson, you get Anjelica Huston."

My friend paused. "...nice." she replied.

And it is!

Although Match Point was made much later than Crimes and Misdemeanors, the latter feels like an improvement on the former.

You have the same essential storyline--a man has an affair with a woman who gets overly clingy, and angsty relationship drama ensues. But Crimes and Misdemeanors brings more to the table--to turn a phrase, it puts more in the soup.

For example, in addition to the primary story about an optometrist's infidelity, there's a parallel storyline involving a married documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern (Woody Allen), who falls in love with his new production assistant (Mia Farrow), who is sought after by the annoyingly charismatic Lester (Alan Alda).

And the primary storyline, which features the impeccably apt Martin Landau as the promiscuous Judah Rosenthal, also has component parts, including a rocky relationship with an estranged brother, and a successful optometry practice that brings him into contact with a contrastingly benevolent rabbi and a genuinely good man who is going blind. (Arguably one of the most philosophical aspects of the film).

But coming back to my original point about love gone wrong, the film is full of examples.

Everything you expect to work out in Crimes and Misdemeanors doesn't, and everything you expect not to work out, does.

It's a very poetic look at love and human relationships, because it presents the non-Hollywoodized and arguably more realistic view of humanity's strongest emotion.

The fact is, people get bored. Then they get lonely. Then they make poor decisions, and before you know it, things go completely awry.

This happens all the time, but so rarely does it happen in the movies without being carefully and brought back into balance.

In that regard, Crimes and Misdemeanors bravely squashes the Hollywood standard by refusing to pick a genre, resisting a nice, clean ending, and giving all the right outcomes to all the wrong characters.

...and the one-liners aren't bad either.

If you're interested in a movie that breaks the rules and doesn't apologize, I say look no further. You can find Crimes and Misdemeanors in the Woody Allen section, or on my Staff Picks shelf.

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