Crimes and Misdemeanors being my first Woody Allen film I must say that I am more than pleased with what I saw, and what a prickly, delectable film I did see. After my viewing of this it makes me want to go through and view all of Allen's film repertoire to see what other unfound gems I can dig up and fall in love with.
The film begins, as with most of his films with the jazz filled opening credits, but once those are finished we are introduced into a celebration with one of the films major players, Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a successful eye doctor and philanthropist. We quickly learn via a letter addressed to his wife that he has a, shall we say, broken mistress, who wants him to leave his wife because of 'promises' he made to her.
Not soon after we are introduced to the films other major player, Cliff Stern (Woody Allen). Cliff is an unsuccessful filmmaker, with an even more unsuccessful marriage. He is forced to take on the job of filming a documentary on his wife's brother, Lester (Alan Alda), the man he despises most in the world. All the while the two off them are competing indirectly for the affections of the same woman, Halley Reed (Mia Farrow).
The particular distinction of Crimes and Misdemeanors is that Allen weaves the stories of Stern and Rosenthal together. One is trying to leave a mistress behind while the other is trying to begin a new relationship all his own. However the story of Rosenthal is a sad and tragic one, as he has his mistress killed, after being much conflicted with himself over the ordeal because of his Jewish heritage.
On the other hand, the story of Stern is outright hilarious, and Allen did an excellent job of writing smart, quirky, and fast-paced humor into the film, especially the relationship between Stern and Lester. Particularly the way Stern continually attacks Lester. My particular favorite was when Stern showed his finished film to Lester and it had a clip of Mussolini followed by a clip of Lester. It was just absolute cinematic gold to watch Allen and Alda duel onscreen (even though Allen did most of the dueling).
The film, however, leaves you ultimately sad and depressed, as everything does not work out the way it supposed to. Stern doesn't get the girl, Rosenthal doesn't get the girl, and a rabbi goes blind. The whole irony of it all is incredibly acted, written, and directed. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to have a smile put on their face while being intellectually challenged all the same.