With repeated comparisons flying around about Woody Allen's Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors, I finally decided to Netflix the latter to see what all the fuss was about. A similar set of plot points is shared by both films, although in Match Point it's established in a slow burn that reaches its critical mass late in the film. In Crimes and Misdemeanors, the stakes are raised and quenched quickly, leaving the rest of the film for Martin Landau's character to wrestle with the moral fallout.
While the heralded Match Point felt entirely (and alarming) un-Woody to me, Crimes and Misdemeanors boasts some of my favorite trademark Allen touches--including his hilarious, neurotic schtick. This time he takes the B storyline, playing as a struggling documentary filmmaker who is pursuing a TV producer (Mia Farrow).
While I'm starting to wonder if Woody created the slickly enjoyable, but ultimately (I'm betting) forgettable Match Point just to flirt with the luminous Scarlett J., Crimes and Misdemeanors has some meat to it.
Landau's character's childhood flashbacks serve as flying buttresses supporting the movie's morality theme, as rabbis discuss questions such as "What holds us to moral standards if we don't believe a 'higher authority' exists?" Also stirring are inserted interview clips from a documentary Woody's character is making about an eccentric philosopher (e.g., "Isn't it odd that what we seek in romantic relationships is to repeat our childhood drama while simultaneously erasing it?").
Compared to the glimmering gloss of Match Point, Crimes and Misdemeanors feels dark, creaky and staid, but I prefer the earlier film for both its execution and eloquence.
On a lighter note, my favorite line from Crimes and Misdemeanors comes when Woody confesses to Mia that he plagarized his magnificent love letter to her by cribbing James Joyce's writing:
"You must've wondered why the references to Dublin."
Such well-crafted wit. That's my Woodman.