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November 07, 1989 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-11-07

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Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 7, 1989

CRIMES
Continued from page 7
OK: Clifford's wife, Wendy
(Joanna Gleason) has two brothers,
Lester (Alan Alda), an obnoxious
TV producer who incants things like
"Comedy is tragedy plus time," and
Ben (Sam Waterston), a rabbi who is
going blind. Judah treats Ben, Ben
counsels Judah, Clifford likes Halley
(Mia Farrow), a nice TV producer
who happens for some reason to like
Lester. All of the actors handle their
difficult roles well, especially Hus-
ton, and even Alda is at least well-
suited to his role.
While these interrelationships can
make the film seem unnecessarily

complex at times, they serve as a
major focus. Allen points out
throughout the film that despite all
of our personal failings, we still
have our families. He pulls this off
without letting things get too stick-
ily sentimental, and that is no small
feat, especially considering this
theme becomes the premise for a
climactic wedding.
Allen and his actors do some-
times run into trouble, though,
when they ponder the downside of
human behavior. The film puts into
question the idea of religious
(specifically Jewish) morality in no
uncertain terms. Judah spends a lot
of time engaged in soul searching,
talking to Ben and even flashing
back to a childhood seder. While

Landau handles this challenge rea-
sonably well, there's a certain man-
nered exaggeration to the perfor-
mances and writing that casts a
gloomy cloud over the whole
Crimes story. Almost identical
stylistic conceits have worked well
in Allen's "serious" films, but this
time around the intercut
comic/romantic story intrudes and in
its contrast makes the tragic ele-
ments seem more forced. It's as if
Allen wanted to present a multi-
faceted view of the human experience
by means of the dual stories but in-
stead comes up with a hodgepodge.
And that's not even to mention the
jarring effect that switching from
one to another occasionally has;
even the excellent editor Susan

Morse can't smooth it out.
Still, some unifying elements are
successful. The philoso-
pher/documentary subject literally ar-
ticulates the film's themes and acts
as almost a supernatural voice of cer-
tainty in an always uncertain world
- an amusing yet profound figure,
he crosses the boundary between
comedy and tragedy and brings the
two closer together. There are obvi-
ous parallels between the stories that
nevertheless have significant impli-
cations: while Judah's crisis leads
him and us to understand the validity
of ethical codes, Clifford's hapless
pursuit of Hallie has us wanting to
bend the rules a little for him. Over-
all, Allen handles the ambiguities of
the issues well.

Despite its misfirings, though,
Crimes and Misdemeanors is a
worthwhile film. Its intelligence
alone sets it apart from 99 percent of
what's out there, and beyond that,
it's truly enjoyable despite occa-
sional lags. The humor, while rela-
tively subdued, is inevitably on-tar-
get, and for that alone the movie is
worth seeing. But while I hate to be
one of those people who whines,
"Why doesn't Woody Allen make
them like he used to?" here this
question is warranted.
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
is now showing at Showcase Cine-
mas and Briarwood.

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