Woody’s Role

 

-Woody Allen didn’t plan to appear in it. It had, originally, been just about Judah Rosenthal (Landau). I guess Touchstone (who was distributing it) couldn’t help but notice that “Another Woman” and “September” were financial disasters (even by art-house standards), while “Hannah and her Sisters” was a hit, and “Manhattan” and “Annie Hall” were veritable blockbusters. This led them to the (perhaps reasonable) conclusion that Woody Allen movies were only profitable ventures when Woody Allen himself appeared in them. So, when the screenplay for “Crimes and Misdemeanor”s came across the table, no doubt looking for all the world like an even grimmer Another Woman, Allen was reportedly asked to write a small part for himself. [2]

 

-To the best of my knowledge, this is the first instance of studio interference in Allen’s work since way back in 1966, when “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” was re-worked without Allen’s knowledge or consent. [2]

 

- A variety of titles were proposed and rejected including "Brothers," dropped because of a similarly-titled television show and "High Crimes And Misdemeanors" which Woody thought sounded too much like Gilbert and Sullivan. [3]

 

- It was also nearly called “The Eyes of God.” [2]

 

-One-third of the film had Woody Allen's character shooting a documentary on old vaudevillians, with Mia Farrow as the head of the institute to which they belonged. Allen didn't like the scenes in the final cut. During postproduction he cut an entire third of the film, then rewrote and re-shot that section from scratch. As a result, Sean Young's scenes were cut out, and Daryl Hannah's role was reduced to a brief cameo. [1]

 

-The [Mia Farrow] side-story was re-shot almost entirely at the last minute. In the original version, Farrow was married, not Allen, and she worked at a hospital at which Allen was shooting a documentary. Lester was only a minor character. [2]

Existential Themes [Spoilers]

 

-“…Existential subjects to me are still the only subjects worth dealing with. Any time one deals with other subjects one is not aiming for the highest goal. One can be aiming at some very interesting things, but it’s not the deepest thing for me. I don’t think that one can aim more deeply than at so-called existential themes, the spiritual themes.” –Woody Allen [5]

 

-“’Crimes and Misdemeanors’ is about people who don’t see. They don’t see themselves as others see them. They don’t see the right and wrong of situations. And that was a strong metaphor in the movie.” –Woody Allen [5]

-“[Judah] has a set of values and they are his values. And we live in a world where there’s nobody to punish you, if you don’t punish yourself. Judah is someone who does what’s expedient for him when he has to. And he gets away with it! And leads a wonderful life after, presumably. If he doesn’t choose to punish himself then he’s gotten away with it.” –Woody Allen [5]

 

-“My feeling was that once his brother calls and tells him that the deed is done, Judah crosses an irrevocable threshold in his life from which he can never return. At first it starts to dawn on him. He meets if with a mixture of relief and terror as well. And when he sits there with the group of people, he’s like in a different world. They’re all talking about mundane things, and he’s realizing that he has to get back to the flat of his mistress. He instantly starts to feel anxiety and fear. When he’s in the flat, he’s able to get a possession of himself, sufficiently. But what’s interesting to me there is what goes through his mind at the time. What I’m interested in is just his mind.” –Woody Allen [5]

 

-“…It’s too meaningful a moment. It’s very important that we stop the forward flow of the narrative and look in there for a while. His internal conflict is so important at the time, because the deed that he’s just been responsible for is so immense.” –Woody Allen [5]

 

-[SPOLIERS] [Woody is asked if Judah has managed to solve his moral dilemma, he responses:] “Solved it? No! It’s not a big moral dilemma for him at all. As soon as his brother suggests the murder of Dolores, his first reaction is the stereotypical reaction dictated by his social milieu, but even minutes later, before his brother leaves, he’s already thinking, ‘Well you know, maybe I should give this idea some thought.’ And all his thinking after that becomes rationalizations to permit him to carry on with the plan. Judah’s never really in too much of a quandary. Any quandary he has, he’s going to rationalize it away to do what he wants. And he does it, and gets away with it. He has a couple of tense moments after, a couple of bad moments, but that’s all. He leaves the party with his beautiful wife. His daughter is going to get married soon. Everything is fine for him. So, if he doesn’t choose to punish himself, nobody else will. Evil is only punished if you get caught. He’s a terrible person, but he himself is fine.” –Woody Allen [5]

-Released in United States October 13, 1989 [3]

-Runtime: 104 min [1]

-Production Company: Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions

-Distributor: Orion Pictures Corporation

-Rated PG

- Aspect Ra

Budget: $19,000,000 (estimated) [1]

-Gross: $18,254,702,  [1]a $17,566,187, [3]

 $19.6 million [3]

-Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1 [1]

-Leaving one screenplay barely begun, Woody left for a tour of Europe in the summer of 1988. It wasn't long before another script idea popped into his head. Rather than abandon the earlier idea, Woody decided to combine the two scripts into one and began scribbling a new screenplay on the stationery of the various hotels at which he stayed. The collection of drafts imprinted with the logos of Stockholm's Grand Hotel, the Villa d'Este on Lake Como, the Gritti Palace in Venice and Claridge's in London became the basis for one of Woody's most popular and critically acclaimed movies. [3]

 

-As Woody later explained, "Crimes And Misdemeanors” is about people who don't see. They don't see themselves as others see them. They don't see the right and wrong situations. And that was a strong metaphor in the movie." [3]

 

-“Crimes and Misdemeanors” is Woody Allen’s heaviest, most intimidating film yet. [2]

 

-In “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” a brilliant balance between comedy and drama, Woody turned out a successful film that was serious, witty, and bore no resemblance to Bergman movies. [4]

"Crimes And Misdemeanors" Screening Companion

-Martin Landau was originally cast as Jack Rosenthal. [1]

 

-Originally, the iconic final scene was supposed to be between Judah and Ben. But Sam Waterston was unavailable for shooting, so Allen himself stepped in. [2]

 

-When author Stig Bjorkman asks Woody if he would “want to try and deal with death again in a poetical way?” Woody responses, “Yes, I would like to.” In 2005, Woody nails the subject matter in one of his biggest hits, “Match Point.” [5]

 

Critical Reception

 

-At the time, I couldn’t believe the audacity of the movie — that it would tell the story it tells, the way it tells it. …but this was a movie that made itself infinitely more dispiriting by being about a much more mundane, familiar form of evil. [2]

 

-The fearlessness of Martin Landau’s performance comes from the way he’s not afraid to be truly ugly and unlikable. Not many actors would want to be seen in this light. He commits a great crime, yes, but he’s dishonest and immoral on a smaller scale as well. He lies to his family and his friends, there are allusions to theft from his charitable organizations, and he often belittles those around him (especially his brother). Landau is playing Allen’s first real villain. [2]

 

-Although critics debated the meaning of the film, the idea was perfectly clear to John Simon, who hailed Woody’s courage for tacking the subject and his “guts” to come up with an honest answer: “There is no justice, no rhyme or reason in the universe, no God.” The film was, in Simon’s opinion, “Allen’s first successful blending of drama and comedy plot and subplot.” [4]

 

-The accolades didn't impress Woody, however. Asked how he felt about the praise heaped upon this film he responded, "When I put out a film that enjoys any acceptance that isn't the most mild or grudging, I immediately become suspicious of it. A certain amount of positive response makes me feel comfortable and proud. Then beyond that, I start to feel convinced that a work of any real finesse and subtlety and depth couldn't be as popular as it is." [3]

 

-Three Oscar nominations: Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Martin Landau). The next year (this movie came out a bit later in Britain), it picked up six BAFTA nominations: Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor (Alda), and Best Supporting Actress (Huston). [2]

 

-Alan Alda won the Best Supporting Actor award from both the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle [3]

 

-Woody won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Screenplay Written Directly For The Screen. [3]

 

-“I think it’s one of my better films. I think it’s one of the more successful ones, because I felt it had some substance to chew on and it portrayed the philosophical and intellectual interest that I had in this subject matter in a reasonably entertaining way. I thought there were some laughs in it and some tense moments. So, in general, I felt more positive about it.” –Woody Allen [5]

 

- 92% Rotten Tomato rating

Trivia

 

-The role of Prof. Louis Levy, subject of Cliff Stern's documentary in this film, is played by non-actor and therapist friend of Woody Allen's , world-renowned Martin Bergmann, clinical professor of psychology in New York University's post-doctoral program. [1]

 

-Originally, Alan Alda was only supposed to appear in the opening party scene with Daryl Hannah. Woody Allen expanded Alda's part after he asked Alda to improvise and Allen liked the improvisation. Allen wrote Alda's part as they went along. [1]

 

-Woody Allen felt that he had been too "nice" to the characters in the end of “Hannah and Her Sisters,” so he wrote this film as a response to those feelings. [1]

[1] – imdb.com

[2] – www.EveryWoodyAllenMovie.com

[3] - Turner Movie Classics

[4] – The Unruly Life of Woody Allen by Marion Meade

[5] – Woody on Woody In Conversation with Stig Bjorkman