Movies in Frames: Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

August 19, 2012

Crimes and Misdemeanors is easily one of Woody Allen‘s finest achievements.  I’ll go further and say that I think it is his finest film.  I recently viewed every single one of his films again, a task which was truly mammoth considering his famously prolific output.  The journey though his work yielded some fascinating insights.  I am now convinced that Crimes and Misdemeanors possesses something truly special.  It is a paragon of  the powerful capability of and marvelous flexibility of the cinema.  It contains the full gamut of human emotions.  As a viewer you experience joy, anger, despair, fear, horror, hope, sadness, wonder and a little anxiety.  All this and the film is hilarious to boot.  The film gracefully oscillates between the two seemingly unrelated but equally captivating plot lines and leads us to an unexpected conclusion that showcases Woody Allen’s peerless artistic integrity and refusal to follow Hollywood conventions.

So what do I think puts this film above Manhattan, Annie Hall, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Stardust Memories and Match Point?  Intellectual explanations won’t really help illuminate the reasons.  All I can be sure of is that the film feels truly satisfying and complete, almost perfect.  A feat for a film that by traditional writing standards avoids conclusion and resolution altogether and instead forces us to examine the inescapable realities of the world we live in.   Crimes and Misdemeanors shows us that chaos is the default state of the universe.  The film shows that good intentions mean nothing, that love is not fair nor true and that the only punishment is the one inflicted upon ourselves by the god of our choosing.

What I have attempted to illustrate in my Movies in Frames piece is how Woody Allen masterfully fuses Judah and Cliff’s stories together using films.  This simple device serves to show us Cliff’s warm relationship with his niece and to offer counterpoint and comment to Judah’s murder thread.  He visually reminds us of how Hollywood has traditionally dealt with murder and its consequences.  He successfully uses 80 years of Hollywood conventions against us because even after showing us that murder is a much more complex beast than we thought, we still expect Judah to be duly punished for his ‘crimes’.

I can’t wait to see the film again.  I leave you with the great Alan Alda!

Movies in Frames: Ms. 45 (1981)

August 8, 2012

I’m on a bit of a Movies in Frames blitz.  This one is from Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45.  Track it down if you are a fan of rape-revenge films.  It would serve as a fine B side to Thriller by Bo Arne Vibenius.  Maybe you could serve a bit of I Spit on Your Grave for dessert?  Ms 45. is probably the lesser of this group of films in terms of execution and effectiveness (all due respect to Mr Ferrara!).  Thriller is a near masterwork that somehow achieves a strange existential quality at its pinnacle.  It rises above its sleazy beginnings and transforms into a beautiful and spare celebration of both the cleansing fire of vengeance and the white hot fury of woman’s scorn.  I Spit On Your Grave is a fantastic film that arguably spends too much time with the rape and too little time on the revenge.  The deaths of the perpetrators are certainly enjoyable to watch but I am left a little hollow at the close of the film.  Perhaps I Spit seems to be commenting on the fleeting nature of revenge.  We stay with our triumphant hero after the final death and are forced to contemplate the future as she silently rides away on a boat, stoic yet irreparably damaged.  Ms. 45 certainly is an enjoyable gem and the showdown scene at the dress up party is haunting and magnificent.  It is operatic, strangely beautiful and filled with overt symbolism.  It is an odd film overall but it certainly has its place in the revenge rampage canon.

Movies in Frames: Red Dawn (1984)

August 1, 2012


Here’s my Movies in Frames submission for Red Dawn.  On my last viewing of the film, I was struck by the unwavering intensity of the performances.  The determination and commitment of the young cast is what makes the Wolverines seem utterly convincing.  I feel their loss and am saddened as they fall.  It is an odd sensation, feeling a sense of patriotism for a country I’ve only been to once.  My love for American cinema has instilled me with a kind of phantom patriotism, a vicarious love of all things red, white and blue.

Movies in Frames: Chungking Express (1994)

July 18, 2012


Here’s my latest submission for the magnificent Movies in Frames.  For those of you who don’t know, Movies in Frames is a Tumblr blog with simple rules: 1 film, 4 frames.  It’s a delightful site that encourages discussion and expression about films through imagery.  Check it out and then contribute your own.