Crimes and Misdemeanors

October 13th, 1989


Crimes and Misdemeanors

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An opthamologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman.

Release Year: 1989

Rating: 8.0/10 (24,304 voted)

Critic's Score: 77/100

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Bill Bernstein

Opthalmologist Judah Rosenthal has had an affair with Dolores for several years, and now she threatens to ruin his life if he doesn't marry her. When his brother Jack suggests to have Dolores murdered, Judah is faced with a big moral dilemma: destruction of his life or murder. Meanwhile, documentary filmmaker Clifford Stern is trying to make a film of a philosophy professor, but instead he's commissioned to make a portrait of succesful TV producer and brother-in-law Lester, who to Clifford represents everything that he despises.

Bill Bernstein - Testimonial Speaker
Martin Landau - Judah Rosenthal
Claire Bloom - Miriam Rosenthal
Stephanie Roth Haberle - Sharon Rosenthal (as Stephanie Roth)
Gregg Edelman - Chris
George J. Manos - Photographer (as George Manos)
Anjelica Huston - Dolores Paley
Woody Allen - Cliff Stern
Jenny Nichols - Jenny
Joanna Gleason - Wendy Stern
Alan Alda - Lester
Sam Waterston - Ben
Zina Jasper - Carol
Dolores Sutton - Judah's Secretary
Joel Fogel - T.V. Producer (as Joel S. Fogel)

Taglines: A film about humanity.

Release Date: 13 October 1989

Filming Locations: 5th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $19,000,000 (estimated)

Gross: $18,254,702 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Martin Landau was originally cast as Jack Rosenthal.

Factual errors: When Judah decides to have Delores killed, he only dials seven digits on the phone calling his brother, Jack. Judah lives in Connecticut and Jack lives in New York, so he would have to dial at least 10 digits to call him.

[first lines]
Testimonial Speaker: We're all very proud of Judah Rosenthal's philanthropic efforts. His endless hours of fund raising for the hospital, the new medical center, and now, the ophthalmology wing, which until this year had just been a dream. But it's due to Rosenthal our friend that we most appreciate. The husband, the father, the golf companion. Naturally if you have a medical problem you can call Judah...
Miriam Rosenthal: You're blushing darling.
Testimonial Speaker: or night, weekends or holidays. But you can also call Judah to find out which is the best restaurant in Paris - or Athens. Or which hotel to stay at in Moscow. Or the best recording of a particular Mozart symphony...

User Review

Brilliant, probably Woody's best and most focused

Rating: 10/10

"Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) was the masterful culmination of Woody Allen's dramatic period in the 80's, in which he made brilliant movies like "Hannah and Her Sisters", "Another Woman" or "September". In these movies he tried his best to play with Ingmar Bergman's narrative and aesthetic preoccupations, which are incidentally also Allen's. He has also always been successful at incorporating wit and comedy into the dramatic arc. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors" he confronts two philosophies of life with each other. And once the two story lines are set into motion, almost every scene plays off the theme of the movie.

We meet Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a successful and beloved doctor. Coming home with his family from a gala, he finds a letter from his mistress Dolores (Angelica Huston); addressed to his wife. Judah meets Dolores in her apartment, where she explains her deep dissatisfaction with the current situation. She wants Judah on her own, whereas he feels that this affair is getting out of hand and wants to end it. Consecutively Dolores begins to threaten him with uncovering a fund theft he was involved in and with admitting their affair to his wife. Judah cannot see out of this predicament and calls up his Mafioso brother (Jerry Orbach) to help him getting rid of her.

Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) on the other hand is a struggling documentary filmmaker, married to a woman who stopped having sex with him a year ago and who would rather see him work than not. So Cliff goes against his principles and takes the job kindly given to him by his wife's brother Lester (Alan Alda), a millionaire TV producer. Cliff has to follow Lester around New York to document his visions for a TV program. On the job he meets Halley Reed (Mia Farrow), an associate producer, who gets interested in his work of passion, a documentary about a Jewish philosopher. At the same time Cliff begins to take interest in Halley.

Cliff is portrayed by Allen as a humble, wise and cynical man, who never managed to connect his aspirations to the demands of the real world. He has nothing to offer except his love and knowledge. This enables him to be a mentor to his young niece, but does not profit him in his relationship with Halley. The little girl also works as a stand-in for Cliff's conversations with his conscience. This device is made clearer in Rosenthal's segments, where he confides himself to a rabbi.

So we have a dual storyline, where one section is morally repugnant and the other one is idealistic. The rabbi tells Rosenthal that their conversations are always about two views of life. One believes in a harsh world, empty of values and with a pitiless moral structure, while the other sees meaning and forgiveness and a higher power. Rosenthal has heard similar things before, since he was raised very religiously. "The eyes of God are on us always", advised his father. And when it came to the question of God's existence he would add: "In case of doubt I will always choose God over truth." But Judah cannot let God interfere when he plans to kill his lover. He feels guilt, alright, but people get used to circumstances. We deny and try to forget.

When in Cliff's segment the Jewish professor commits suicide, it comes as a shock. Suddenly a philosophical system has been taken away. Isn't that one of the things we fear the most? To realize that our beliefs are incomplete and wrong. This understanding only tightens as the movie progresses. The rabbi is going blind, morality has lost. In the end the film is a sobering account of how immorality, deceit and its more harmless companions prevail.

I feel Allen had to let the downbeat ending happen, to express a fear of his. In the 90's he would often return to lighter themes. This expresses his curiosity in all aspects of existence. Light and darkness coexist. Tonally "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is not a dark movie. Allen repeatedly breaks up an emotional scene with a punch-line. But Allen is always consistent in his tone, whatever subjects or periods he chooses. He is a tough worker, who has made 33 movies since 1969, which amounts to roughly one movie a year. "Crimes and Misdemeanors" is the clearest in its vision and among his very best.


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