Plot: What’s it about?
Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) is a well respected member of his community, but like most people, he too has secrets in his closet. In his case, Rosenthal has been engaged in an extramarital affair for an extended period of time, with a woman named Dolores (Anjelica Huston). Rosenthal’s affair has been well guarded and no one knows, since the two have kept the information just between themselves. But Dolores has fallen in love with Rosenthal and issued an ultimatum, either he marries her or she will expose his indiscretions. If word was leaked, it could ruin Rosenthal’s life and when his mobster brother suggests murder, it forces Rosenthal to make a most crucial choice indeed. At the same time, documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern (Woody Allen) faces an important decision of his own. He has idealistic beliefs for his career in cinema, but now he has been offered a break, but he must do a flattering piece on someone who doesn’t deserve it, mean producer Lester (Alan Alda). Both men have to make perhaps the most important decision of their lives and of course, the choice will have more impact than either man expects…
This is my personal choice as the best film in MGM’s second wave of Woody Allen pictures, but in addition, I think it ranks as of the best films of all time. I wouldn’t place it toward the top of that list, but it is very good and deserves much praise, to be sure. Allen’s minimalist style works to sheer perfection here, as the writing and performances are the focus, which is just how it should be in this case. The photography and production design are quite good, but remain basic and that’s good, as it ensures the viewers are never distracted. I am always taken by Allen’s writing and here is no exception, as he pens a terrific premise and then fills in the blanks with excellent details, no real flaws in that respect. The cast is also very good and aside from Allen himself, it includes such names as Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Alan Alda, and Caroline Aaron. This is one of Allen’s best efforts and whether you’re a fan of his work or not, this film is highly recommend, to be sure.
As I’ve said before, I like Woody Allen’s pictures, but I like his comedic work the best and while this film has humor, it also has harsh dramatic elements. It’s no easy task to combine outrageous humor with intense drama, but Allen does it here and never falters much in the process. I suppose a few weaker spots are evident, but these are minor and in the end, I think Allen more than delivered on his premise. I wouldn’t say this is his funniest movie by any means, but it is hilarious at times, the humor is just balanced by the drama. I consider this to be one of his best pictures and as such, I think it is required viewing for fans of his work. Other films directed by Allen include Shadows and Fog, Another Woman, Interiors, Sweet and Lowdown, Radio Days, and Everyone Says I Love You. The cast includes Allen himself, as well as Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Rounders), Anjelica Huston (Ever After, The Witches), Alan Alda (What Women Want, Murder At 1600), Sam Waterston (Serial Mom, Heaven’s Gate), and Joanna Gleason (Boogie Nights, The Wedding Planner).
Video: How does it look?
Crimes and Misdemeanors is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film has a very warm visual scheme, so colors look hotter than normal and so do flesh tones, but not to an extreme degree. The lush colors like green and blue look a little off as a result, but it all still looks more than solid. The contrast look darker than usual, but to the extent that is obscures detail and as such, I am passing this one. The print looks clean and shows minimal grain, this transfer should more than please fans.
Audio: How does it sound?
There’s not much to be said about the included mono track, it’s pretty much your basic mono option, which proves to be adequate. The dialogue dominates this mix and that’s how it should be, so don’t expect much else here. The vocals are well presented however, quite clean and with no volume errors to report. I wasn’t too impressed with the other elements, but they come across well enough and in this case, that’s good enough. This disc also includes audio options & subtitles in Spanish and French, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.