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Martin Landau as Judah Rosenthal - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Martin Landau as Judah Rosenthal. Successful and respected eye doctor, wealthy lifestyle, loving wife and children. He is weak, a liar and a cheat. His affair with a flight attendant makes him feel young and happy again but threatens to ruin his life.

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Martin landau as judah rosenthal
Martin Landau as Judah Rosenthal

  • Successful and respected eye doctor, wealthy lifestyle, loving wife and children.

  • He is weak, a liar and a cheat.

  • His affair with a flight attendant makes him feel young and happy again but threatens to ruin his life.

  • Why does Allen choose eye doctor for Judah’s profession?

  • Because it is ironic that a morally blind man helps others to see better!

  • Should Allen have cast someone else? What if this role were played by a more attractive actor? Brad Pitt, for example? Would we be more willing to root for him?

Woody allen as cliff
Woody Allen as Cliff

  • Woody Allen’s choice to make a commercial film to fund a pet project mirrors Hollywood reality.

  • Though he is married, he falls in love with Mia Farrow, pursues her, and sabotages her relationships with others – all to compensate for his loveless marriage.

  • Cliff is like most of Allen’s portrayals: a romantic misfit who is perpetually perplexed by women's propensity for choosing better-looking, wealthier, more sensible men. His fear of rejection further undermines his plays for romantic love.

Mia farrow as halley reed
Mia Farrow as Halley Reed

  • Bright, educated, witty, PBS producer.

  • Though she is divorced and is being pursued by Alan Alda’s character, Lester, Cliff works to keep them apart. Why?

  • She must choose between a struggling intellectual soul-mate and a powerful Hollywood mogul.

  • Who would you choose? Why?

The rabbi the professor and the aunt
The Rabbi, the Professor, and the Aunt

  • What is the Rabbi’s purpose in the film?

  • He represents one view of morality—the Godly moral compass.

  • Why is the Rabbi blind?

  • Allen’s point—and one that recurs in his pictures—is that God has abandoned us. We are doomed to short desperate lives filled with violence, selfishness and moral confusion.

  • What does the professor represent?

  • He illustrates moral relativism—that the best we can do is determine for ourselves what is right and wrong.

  • What does Judah’s Aunt May represent?

  • She represents the third option: nihilism or a “might makes right” view of morality.

  • The picture is an illustration of how we are all faced with these options every day in every decision we make – particularly the big ones.


  • The characters played by Martin Landau and Angelica Huston have been locked in a two-year, “fatal attraction,” adulterous relationship.

  • Cliff would like to have an affair with Halley.

  • Is adultery wrong?

  • If so, how do we know it’s wrong? Because God tells us it’s wrong? Because we couldn’t live with ourselves if we did it? Why do so many married persons have affairs?


  • As with The Godfather, we confront the issue of lawlessness—specifically murder—as practiced by the mafia.

  • The film asks the question: “Could I live with the knowledge that I had murdered someone. Could I live a normal life with a career, friends, and family?”

  • The reason nearly all of us do not commit murder is because we answer “no” to this question. If we answered “yes,” society would break down.

  • Did George Eastman answer “no” to the question once he got out on the lake with Alice Tripp in A Place in the Sun?

  • Why do we choose not to murder? Because God forbids it?


  • The point of Allen’s films is not to focus on what happens to the characters but instead on how and what decisions they reach.

  • Allen starkly blends humor and tragedy in dealing with the subjects of murder, romance, suicide, and pathos.

  • Virtue (true love, honest work) is punished and evil (murder, vanity, fame, and fortune) is rewarded.

  • The film is about whether justice, goodness, and happiness are possible in a godless (liberal, secular, postmodern) world. Why doesn’t nihilism rein – or does it? How do we create meaning from the nothingness of life?

Does art imitate life or life imitate art
Does Art Imitate Life or Life Imitate Art?

  • Most critics argue that Allen either consciously or subconsciously alludes to his current real-life troubles in whatever film he is making at the time.

  • Crimes And Misdemeanors was made three years before the Allen-Farrow split.

  • Are there signs in the film that reflect reality and presage the break-up?

  • Farrow (who had married 50-year old Frank Sinatra when she was 21) later accused Allen of abusing their adopted daughter Dyan and Allen admitted a romantic liaison with her adopted daughter—Soon-Yi Previn—from a previous relationship with pianist Andre Previn. Farrow claimed that she discovered the affair by finding nude photographs of Soon-Yi taken by Allen in his apartment. Soon-Yi was 22 at the time of the revelations. She and Allen married in 1997 and have two adopted daughters.

  • The film:

  • Cliff is in a loveless marriage.

  • He falls in love with an unobtainable woman.

  • He is obsessed with hanging around his 14-year-old niece and they have adult conversations and do adult activities such as watching 1940s films.

  • Coincidence?

Conclusion wither woody
Conclusion: Wither Woody?

  • Why are Allen’s films largely ignored by the American movie-going public?

  • For the most part, they do not have the traditional Hollywood “happy ending.” Instead, characters are resolved to the consequences of their lives.

  • They are character, dialogue-driven stories of flawed individuals. There are no superheroes or super-effects.

  • Therefore, while Allen’s films can teach us a great deal about relationships and the human condition, no one is watching…


  • Ebert, Roger, “Crimes and Misdemeanors,”, October 13, 1989.

  • Grant, Judith, “Morality and Liberal Legal Culture,” in Jonn Denvir, ed., Legal Reelism (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1996).

  • Hicks, Chris, “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Deseret Morning News, November 3, 1989.

  • Kempley, Rita, “’Crimes and Misdemeanors,’” Washington Post, October 13, 1989.