Friday, April 1, 2011

Crimes and Misdemeanors

The third and last Woody Allen film I watched over the weekend. Crimes and Misdemeanors is the first film of his I've seen that you could reasonably call a drama more than a comedy, although there's still funny moments, usually involving Allen's character butting heads with Alan Alda's. But considering that a murder is central to one of the main two character arcs in the story, calling it a drama certainly seems fair. The film is fairly neatly divided between two threads. In one, Allen plays a documentary filmmaker in a loveless marriage, who is given an opportunity to do a profile on his hot shot producer brother in law played by Alda, and then becomes his romantic rival after meeting an associate producer played by Mia Farrow. In the other, Martin Landau plays a successful eye doctor who has to deal with an increasingly intrusive mistress played by Anjelica Huston. The two threads barely bump up against each other until the end, when the two leads meet at a wedding and share a quiet moment.

The film is certainly different than what I'm used to seeing from Allen, and while it didn't totally work for me, I admired a lot about it. The cast is pretty terrific as always, and I appreciated the attempt at some genuinely dark material without a hint of a humorous motive. This is also the second Allen film this week to take an idea from an Ingmar Bergman film, and he's not a bad person to pay tribute to. Alda's character is pretty much the perfect smug bastard, refusing to take no for an answer and carrying a tape recorder around with him to track every little idea he has for the next big hit. The relationships on display have the appropriate mixture of sweetness and melancholy, and there are a few inspired moments. I felt like a few of its concepts got in the way of creating a more genuinely entertaining movie though, and Allen isn't quite a master of suspense when it comes to the darker stuff, or at least he wasn't yet. Still a perfectly fine film, and it was cool seeing him try something different.

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