Crimes and Misdemeanors, Woody Allen’s last film from the 80s follows two different characters:
A rich ophthalmologist (Martin Landau) has to face his responsibilities, after deciding to end his two-year-long affair with a flight attendant (Anjelica Huston), who’s threatening to expose him to his wife and imperil his reputation. A sophisticated documentary filmmaker (Woody Allen) is hired by his unbearable brother-in-law, who’s also a successful television producer, to make a documentary about his life. While filming, he falls in love with an associate producer (Mia Farrow).
Those two concurrent plots deal with two distinct themes. The first story is Allen’s first attempt (as a writer and a director) to study criminal actions. In particular, he’s interested in finding out whether one may commit a crime and not be punished for it. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re right. Fifteen years later Allen decided to work on the same idea, leading to the creation of his huge commercial success known as Match Point (2005). If, on the other hand, this sounds familiar to you literature-wise, you’re once again correct, since this film’s main source of inspiration is Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
As for the second story, we see some of Allen’s regular concerns being explored: human relations and the never-ending search for the meaning of life. However, this time Allen as a lead helped only to the inter-textual embellishment of his film by constantly making cinematic, literary and political references. Martin S. Bergmann (1913-2014), a professor of psychology of the University of New York, is the one expressing his philosophical thoughts on life, love and creation.
This is probably my second favorite film by Woody Allen (Manhattan always comes first): witty and remarkably interesting.