Crimes and Misdemeanors19 Jan 2016
“No Matter how elaborate a system of philosophy you work out, in the end, it’s gotta be incomplete” - Halley Reed (Mia Farrow)
Crimes and Misdemeanors has much less directorial flash than other Woody Allen films. There’s better cinematography in Manhattan, better editing and dialog in Annie Hall, better characters in Hannah and her Sisters. But where this film succeeds beyond those others, is in a full depiction of Allen’s philosophy of life. Between the philosophy professor on screen in Cliff’s documentary (not too dissimilar from While We’re Young’s plot point, but much better used as a plot device), a blind rabbi, an ophthalmologist who can’t see himself clearly and a set of film-makers fumbling around with their own incomplete moral compasses, there are so many character ripe with theories about how to live life, what matters, what doesn’t and how to deal with it all. In the end, we the audience get the benefit of all this exploration. It’s not so much that we receive a complete and flawless theory of life, but an exploration of themes and ideas as old as time, packaged in a pseudo-thriller. One without a happy ending, perhaps, but for that we could “go see a Hollywood movie” right?
Since we don’t get a nicely buttoned philosophy, I suppose what we get is Allen telling us that he doesn’t know the answers but he has spent his life, as a little boy at the family Seder table, a young man in marriage, a professional film-maker, wrestling with big ideas. He doesn’t hide his flaws. He isn’t perfect in marriage, he doesn’t quite understand why sexuality works the way it does (his own and others’), he’s judgmental even behind the camera, but despite all of these flaws, he keeps trying and wrestling to understand life. And there may be no hierarchical framework to fit all of these needs, but the desire to find one is strong with him, and he will continue to search.