“If it bends, it’s funny; if it breaks, it’s not” claims Alan Alda’s hilariously pompous TV producer, and one of the miracles of Woody Allen’s dark and Dostoevskian masterpiece is that it knows exactly how far to bend the comedy so that it doesn’t undermine the far more serious moral dilemmas at its core.
Two men wrestle with their consciences: idealistic documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern (Allen) is offered a lucrative fee to shoot a flattering profile of his loathsome but far more successful brother-in-law (Alda), while respected ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal (an Oscar-nominated Martin Landau) is faced with exposure by his vengeful ex-mistress (Anjelica Huston), and has to choose between the spiritual advice of his rabbi (Sam Waterston) and more practical suggestions from his mobster brother (Jerry Orbach).
Described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the watershed films of his career”, Crimes and Misdemeanors remains one of Woody Allen’s greatest films, not least for its scathingly clear-eyed view of how far people will to go to protect their apparent integrity, even at the price of losing the real thing.
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