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Film: Crimes and Misdemeanors

"God is a luxury I can't afford."
Judah Rosenthal

Crimes and Misdemeanors is a 1989 Dramedy written by, directed by, and starring Woody Allen. The film follows two stories: the "A" story is about Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a successful opthamologist and active philanthropist, struggling to break free of a mistress who wants him to leave his family for her. The "B" story is about Cliff Stern (Woody Allen), a documentarian who finds popular culture and materialism repellent. Rosenthal is forced to make a decision by his insistent mistress Dolores (Anjelica Huston), while Stern, hopeful to complete his masterwork, agrees to profile his brother-in-law Lester (Alan Alda), a wealthy and successful television producer Stern considers shallow and crass.


Tropes appearing in Crimes and Misdemeanors include:

  • Author Avatar: As usual, Woody's character is a Deadpan Snarker with relationship issues.
  • A Rare Sentence:
    Cliff: A strange man...defecated on my sister.
  • Big Brother Worship: Cliff's wife Wendy is Lester's sister. It's unclear which is the older sibling, but Wendy greatly admires her brother.
  • Body Motifs: The eyes. Judah's father, a religious man, was fond of saying that "The eyes of God are on us always" when Judah was a boy. Judah grew up and became an opthamologist. Judah's rabbi went blind right about the same time Judah had Dolores killed. When Judah visited the scene of the crime, he found Dolores dead but with her eyes still open. He took a moment to close them.
  • Cool Uncle: Cliff is this to Jenny.
  • Dies Wide Open: Dolores. Her dead eyes pierce through Judah's soul.
  • Doing It for the Art: Cliff. His wife Wendy urges him to use his filmmaking talents for greater financial gain and peer recognition. To that end, she arranges for her brother Lester to get profiled by Cliff.
  • Driven to Suicide: Woody's favorite documentary subject, a professor who seems to have a sunny outlook on life, kills himself. Cliff is especially depressed about his suicide note: "I've gone out the window."
  • Karma Houdini: Judah isn't even suspected of having his mistress murdered, let alone punished.
  • Large Ham: Lester
  • My Card: Detective: "If you remember anything that might help..."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Judah experiences this, but he gets over it.
  • Serial Numbers Filed Off: invoked Lester is basically Larry Gelbart, whom Alan Alda and Woody Allen weren't enamored of. The quotes Lester makes like "Tragedy is comedy plus time"? Gelbart constantly prattled those aphorisms on the set of Mash and elsewhere.
  • Take That: Cliff, to Lester. Cliff screens his profile doc for Lester, who is treated to seeing himself making a sleazy pass at an actress and hearing his words set to footage of Benito Mussolini and Francis The Talking Mule. Lester was not amused.
  • Too Soon: The film basically has the Trope Codifier ("Comedy is tragedy plus time".)
  • Yandere: Dolores.


Cool Hand LukeRoger Ebert Great Movies ListDark City
The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her LoverFilms of the 1980sCyborg

alternative title(s): Crimes And Misdemeanors
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