Title: Crimes and Misdemeanors
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director/Writer: Woody Allen
Cinematography: Sven Nykvist
Another Woody Allen delight, a diptych of two moral conundrums, Laudau, a well-off ophthalmologist who ultimately gets away with the murder of his badgering mistress (Huston), meanwhile a frustrated documentary filmmaker (Allen) flunks to win his love interest (Farrow) over a pretentious showbiz magnate (Alda).
For Laudau’s story, one can easily sniff out the comparability of Allen’s later London-based MATCH POINT (2005), the other women are merely dispensable in favor of wealth, social status and ostensibly stable matrimony. In this film, its main concern is the struggle within, the general moral conscience Vs. the guilt or the sin, and out of left field, it is the latter eventually prevails, with the trappings of a comfortable life, the murder becomes a petty snippet in his memory and time can put everything back into an equilibrium, it is beyond any religion’s absolution. Landau delivers one of his best performances in his lengthy career, an outright leading role (again, shamefully the category fraud push him into supporting group in the Oscar race), a hypocrite sleekly justifies his selfish and heinous behaviors with superfluous padding, a despicable person so full of life with mocking caricature and a tint of self-reflection, everyone has his or her own insurmountable hurdle in reality, luckily the preponderance is able to rein the yardstick. Anjelica Huston breaks her lofty stereotype, to overplay an unreasonable mistress who is too desperate to shore up her wanting sense of security, as vexing and half-witted as she is, her denouement is too much a punishment.
As for Allen’s romantic entanglement with Farrow and his doomed marriage, it brims with casual wisecracks and addicted cinema-goings, but the scene-stealer is Alda, whose character is blatantly based on the late writer Larry Gelbart, utters bon mots like “comedy is tragedy plus time”; or “if it bends, it’s funny, if it breaks, it isn’t”. He is snooty and lewd to everyone’s eyes, yet he walks off with Allen’s soul mate. Woody Allen is rehashing the same old self, and Mia Farrow refrains herself as an out-of-his-league dame, who speaks highly about her unrealized ambition in order to reject a man trapped in a dead wedlock, yet subservient to the mogul’s courtship, it all boils down to the point of a woman’s self-deceptive blindness towards material needs, with a collateral damage to her unsuccessful suitor. So in both stories, the female characters are less glamorous and adorable here, not to mention Allen’s sister’s icky sex encounter in the bedroom.
The film is mostly brisk under the accompany of a jazzy score, and its debate on moral structure is a cogent one and could be a reference to all the contemporary marital or relationship mishaps, even the religious mumble-jumble has an epiphany on those non-believers.