Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week One, Part Two – ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ (1989)

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The Premise
Last week, film fanatics and friends
Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram exchanged lists of 25 of their most beloved films. Starting this week, each will watch one movie from the other’s list and then discuss what they thought of them. There will be discussion and disagreements, applause and indifference, and it will be recorded here for you to enjoy.

This week, the boys watched the films at number 25 on the lists. Here is how they got on. You can read part one of this week’s blog by clicking here.

(You can access the lists so far by clicking here for Fred’s and here for Yasser’s).

Fred: The first movie from my list was ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’.

Yasser: Why did you pick this movie?

FS: The first time I watched it, I hated it. It depressed me. In fact it had such a strong effect on me that I had to watch it again… and then I just fell in love with it.

‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’
1989 – USA
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston

FS: Like a lot of Woody Allen’s movies of that era it has two story lines – one serious, one funny – running through it that are only tenuously linked. Often it doesn’t work, but I think it works brilliantly here, which is a testament to the writing and acting.

YA: I found the movie to be pretty droll. For the first 20 minutes I was really forcing myself to watch it. It was tiring, though not enough to cure my insomnia.

FS: (laughs)

YA: Fred – I didn’t like your movie until it ended.

FS: (laughs) Was there nothing about the plot you liked? Either of them?

YA: Like you, I hated it.

FS: That does not bode well for one of the other films on my list, a film that heavily influenced ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’.

YA: I did like how it made sense and I saw things gel in my head after it ended, and because of the questions that entered my mind as soon as it ended.

FS: The nature of morality?

YA: Yes. It made me think I’m clever for seeing the obvious undertones.

FS: (laughs) Well that’s good.

YA: It seems like a film where there are many people who, through some coincidences, know each other. Their lives seem like random subplots, but I feel there is some ironic consistency to the whole thing.

FS: How do you mean?

YA: Like you said, it’s a story of morality, or a lack of. Woody Allen hints through the story that all of these mundane, unhappy people commit sins and are apathetic to others.

FS: Right down to the professor in the documentary. There is not much love for their fellow man on display by any of the major characters.

YA: The more sins they commit to try and make things better for themselves – adultery, lust, lies, murder – the unhappier they become.

FS: Woody said that he felt the characters in ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ had too happy an ending, and this was his response to that feeling.

YA: In the very beginning, Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a well respected doctor, philanthropist, and family man, opens the film with the line “The eyes of God are on us always… what a phrase for a young boy. What were God’s eyes like? Unimaginably penetrating, intense eyes, I assume”.

YA: As the sins are committed throughout the film, the people can get away from their heinous misdeeds, but not from their sadness.

FS: I don’t know if I agree. We have four characters – an adulterer, a murderer, a heart-breaker who is also a sell-out, and a ridiculous, self-important tit. Only one ends up unhappy. Even the murderer ends the film by saying that the weight has been lifted from him.

YA: He may not get punished by those he has betrayed, but he still questions himself.

FS: Well I think we can safely say that, whilst you may not have enjoyed the film as entertainment, it did make you think.

YA: Yeah.

FS: I think Woody would say he’s been 50% successful then.

YA: I’d like to thank you for recommending it.

FS: Oh?

YA: I like it when something is thought-provoking. It’s a rare quality in a movie.

FS: I thought you were going to say ‘Thanks. It reaffirmed for me that I don’t like Woody Allen’.

YA: (laughs) It was a purely mental experience. It’s not emotional at all.

FS: You see, that’s maybe where we differ. You found ‘Fearless’ emotional and I didn’t. ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ made me very emotional when I first watched it, but you didn’t see that quality in it.

FS: The actors – were there any performances you thought were particularly good or bad?

YA: Woody… Oh man, poor Woody. He is such a whiny douche. I really hope he’s not like that in real life.

FS: I think he probably is. There is a lot of him in his movies.

YA: Anjelica Huston’s talent was wasted.

FS: I think Alan Alda is brilliant, but Marin Landau’s performance is one of my all-time favourite acting performances. It’s probably the main reason it made my list.

YA: Yeah. He was top. He was the only reason, along with the fact I had to watch it, that I paid attention. (laughs)

FS: (laughs)

YA: That first speech about the eyes of God – that made it all come together.

FS: There is a bit more of him further up my list. So – time to rate it. Be brutal!

YA: I am saying 4/10. As a movie it’s wrong. It doesn’t leave you with a happy feeling, nor do you feel happy at any point watching it.

FS: Jeez – you are going to HATE some of my choices.

YA: The only time I laughed was the ‘WTF’ moment when Woody’s sister says some stranger tied her up and dropped a turd on her.

FS: (laughs) How about the brilliant line “The last time I was inside a woman was when I visited the Statue of Liberty”.

YA: YES! That miserable, dry line summed up why I think you like Woody. He said that and I thought “Fred loves that shit”.

FS: (laughs) I laugh at that out loud every time.

YA: I am so looking forward to both out movies this week. You will be watching ‘Borat’…

FS: … and you have the 1972 version of ‘Sleuth – like ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’, this is a very personal choice.

YA: Oh?

FS: Don’t worry. They are nothing alike.

Next week: Yasser watches ‘Sleuth’ whilst Fred views ‘Borat’


11 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week One, Part Two – ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ (1989)

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