'Crimes and Misdemeanors' Review

Updated on April 3, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

Crimes and Misdemeanors may not be one of the best-known Woody Allen films, but it's certainly one of the most critically acclaimed.

It’s understandable. It's one of the few Woody films that manages to balance its philosophical commentary without resorting to obvious narrative stunts (like breaking the fourth wall) in order to enhance comedy and relax its intellectuality.

The central debate of Crimes and Misdemeanors is how the value system ​​of our society can be relativized if the political, social and religious powers that build it are coherently challenged. It's a tale on how the right and wrong depends on our stubborn relationship with our ego and the perception of others towards us.

In Crimes and Misdemeanors, marriage is used as the moral axis. It's the socially acceptable institution that must be always be treated with honesty. And on the surface, this is the story of two men, each one struggling with failed relationships outside their marriage.

Judah Rosenthal (played by the great Martin Landau) is a successful ophthalmologist who, after having a long affair with Dolores Paley (Anjelica Huston), must deal with extreme manipulations and vindictive attitudes that threaten to not only end his marriage but his freedom.

Clifford Stern (Woody Allen) is a small-time documentary filmmaker who is hired by his hated brother-in-law Lester (Alan Alda). In the process, he ends up deeply in love with Halley Reed (Mia Farrow), one of Lester's associate producers.

Woody displays a cruel symbolic irony in his characters. One of Judah's patients is a kind and beloved Rabbi called Ben (Sam Waterston), who is slowly and progressively going blind. In one of the best scenes in the film, Judah tries to seek advice from Ben on how to deal with his resentful lover. The man that would end committing the most heinous and unjustifiable crime specializes in repairing the view of others, meanwhile the man who advocates for honesty and a rightful attitude will end up losing his vision.

In the end, both Judah and Cliff are "punished" for their extramarital actions but also obtain some degree of impunity. And judging above all, we, the viewers, got the feeling that one of the characters deserved a happy ending where the other doesn't.

What's Your Rating For Crimes and Misdemeanors?

See results

Of all of his filmography, this is the feature in which Allen seems so obsessively interested in nurturing a debate. And that's because Crimes and Misdemeanor is one of his most autobiographical pieces. Woody is essentially analyzing his real-life feelings and the possible consequences of his future actions.

It's impossible to see the scenes displaying the perfect relationship between Cliff and his niece Jenny (the only person whom he confides his secrets) and not to think about Woody Allen's relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his partner at the time, Mia Farrow. Allen was (or at least starting to) developing deep feelings for her. And even though Soon-Yi was (barely) of legal age and although Allen was never legally her stepfather, he knew that the social construct and public opinion wouldn't have an ounce of doubt; a possible sentimental relationship with Soon-Yi would be condemned.

At the end, Crimes and Misdemeanors is a Woody Allen inner debate. He's rationalizing—or trying to socially justify—his feelings and future actions in real life.

And Woody perfectly channeled his doubts and fears through that last scene between Judah and Cliff:

Judah: “He [himself] is back to his protected world of wealth and privilege.”

Cliff: “Yes, but can he ever really go back?”

Judah: “Well… people carry sins around with them. Maybe once in a while he has a bad moment, but it passes. And with time, it all fades.”

Cliff: “Yeah but so then you know his worst beliefs are realized.”

Judah: “Well, I said it was a chilling story, didn't I?”

Movie Details

Title: Crimes and Misdemeanors

Release Year: 1989

Director(s): Woody Allen

Actors: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Claire Bloom a.o.

3 stars for Crimes and Misdemeanors

© 2019 Sam Shepards


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Shepards 

      16 months ago from Europe

      Hi Eric,

      I have this one in my old dvd collection. In my country it isn't on netflix.

      I think it is one of Woody Allen's best movies, probably could have rated it higher, but I'm less into Woody Allen's movies now that I have seen probably 20 the last decade.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      16 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Now that is a movie to watch. You had me at the cast. Can I get it on Netflix? Or where?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)