Crimes and Misdemeanors

Crimes and Misdemeanors ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.


Such a perfect encapsulation of Allen's worldview that he might as well have just retired afterward—this was everything he had to say in one brilliantly conceived package. That its themes are stated so bluntly has never bothered me, because the characters are actively wrestling with those questions; the dialogue (Judah's especially) may be openly existential, but none of it rings false in this particular context. What's mysterious and miraculous to me, still, is the way that the two stories inform each other without Allen forcing the issue via cutesy deliberate parallels. Until the magnificent final scene that brings Judah and Cliff together, it really does play like two completely separate films that have been spliced together, each of which as it turns out would have been incomplete without the other. Not sure if that italicized phrase conveys what I want it to, but it’s the heart of the matter, I think.

Other quick thoughts:

• Anjelica Huston’s performance is sorely underrated. People tend to dislike her character because she’s repellently needy; Huston makes her desperation credible, though, and she also manages, in just a few quick flashback snippets, to embody the vibrant woman Judah initially fell in love with.

• The twin scenes in which the hitman stalks Dolores and Judah enters her apartment after she’s been killed, both set to Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15, are what I’d use first to make the case for Allen as a first-rate formalist.

• Halley’s deflection of Cliff’s romantic overture is perhaps the most realistic such depiction in movies, at least regarding the situation in which the woman is fond enough of the man that she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by just saying “not interested.” She gives him just enough to let him retain his dignity and then gets the hell out of there. (Note: This is almost always a mistake, though a well-intentioned one.)

• Yes, the rabbi who’s going blind is a bit much. I’ll grant you that. Though people are very tolerant of that shit when Bergman does it.