“Woody Wednesday” Discussion of Woody Allen’s 1989 movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (Part 5)

Crimes and Misdemeanors: A Discussion: Part 2

Uploaded by on Sep 23, 2007

Part 2 of 3: ‘What Does The Movie Tell Us About Ourselves?’
A discussion of Woody Allen’s 1989 movie, perhaps his finest.
By Anton Scamvougeras.



One of my favorite Woody Allen movies and I reviewed it earlier but I wanted you to hear from somone else:

Morality in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors

Spectatorial Gages

Amy Palacios

Amy Palacios, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Mar 12, 2009 “Share your voice on Yahoo! websites
Director Woody Allen reminds secularists that just because God might not be watching, it doesn’t mean it’s time for a chanting of Olly Olly oxen free in the 1991 film Crimes and Misdemeanors. The film explores the validity of the Judeo-Christian God by analyzing the syllogism most often proposed by theist apologetics, such as William Lane Craig does in his essay “There Are Good Reasons to Believe that God exists.” He argues: “1) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist, 2) Objective moral values do exist, 3) Therefore, God exists” (Craig 8). Woody Allen’s film mainly concerns itself with the minor premise “Objective moral values do exist.” Through careful scrutiny of spectatorial reaction to characters’ behavior in the film, the commonsense approach often taken with morality is disrupted, creating a chasm to be permeated by ethical debate. Though the movie is a comedy, it manages to thrust together the themes of humanity, theology, and reason, prompting a questioning of morality and the existence of God within the audience.Much can be learned just through the audience’s attitudes regarding the minor character Delores, alone. Though Delores is not a major player in the film, her specter kindles in every scene involving Juah–prior to and following her death. Initially, most audience members feel quite a bit of sympathy for her: she’s devoted, she’s on the brink or past the point of insanity, and she has been mislead by Judah. Strangely, though Judah is by default villainized when we pity Delores, we begin to share his frustration with her as he tries to rationalize with her. In Nietzschean terms, we regard her as contemptible at times because because she exhibits a completely selfless slave morality; completely devoted to Judah, she becomes disgusting at moments. This relationship, even without murder, highlights the complicated status of morality within our own social structures. How can we both pity and despise her? I find it hard to believe that human emotion, essentially automatic bioelectrical impulses, can constitute violations of moral code. How can we simultaneously sympathize with Delores but condemn adultery?We seem to exhibit, as individuals and as societies, two separate moral codes that can be switched on and off depending on circumstance. Though we don’t, I hope, overwhelmingly wish to “eliminate” Delores, why do we still feel disdain for her when she threatens to blackmail Judah, ruining everything he has worked so hard for? This is because morality is not as staid as it must be under strict Western theology. Morality lies in sentiment, not within static conviction. The inconsistent feelings we experience as an audience reveal the macrocosmic reaction of our society to any moral dilemma; we consider circumstance, not concrete code. As evidence of this, we do have laws against murder, but why do we partition this act into the two separate offenses of first degree or second degree? The justice system considers premeditated murder to be drastically worse than an act out of “passion.” What exactly is an act of “passion,” or “temporary insanity”? How could an objective moral code be applied to such subjective questions? Simply put, it cannot be. This attempt at demarkation is the direct result of nuanced morality; it is the incisive synthesis of approximate morality into an idealized morality of precision .Circumstance controls the moral tango that Judah and the audience engage in throughout the film. Adultery is certainly not a character-affirming quality in Judah, but we do not abhor him for it; instead there is a period of forgiveness, and a hope that he does not commit murder. As he rationalizes aloud to multiple characters throughout the film his sexual trysts, we even come to understand. Though boredom in a long marriage is quite the cliché, there is still a socially ordained element of acceptability to affairs. With this sympathy for Judah in mind, there are hopes that he can, indeed, convince Delores to let the relationship die. This attitude of understanding certainly changes after Judah has Delores “eliminated” through his brother’s mafiaties. Why is it that the palate of society can handle an affair, at time savor the erotic forbidden nature of it, but cannot cope with the macabre tang of murder? Perhaps the answer is psychological. It is possible that there is a acquittal from so-called fornication because it is in our evolutionary nature to procreate and perpetuate the species, and maybe it is that murder is unsettling because it is ant-evolutionary. It is anti-human. It seems unacceptable that, though both offenses are carved in the same stone, one outweighs in moral liability.Following the murder, Judah temporarily creates another emotional alliance with the audience as the reality of his acts set in. One of the most potent scenes in the film follows the murder of Delores, in which he stands in the bathroom, gazing at himself in the mirror, confronting the man in the glass that is newly a murderer. For part of the film there is the belief that he will redeem himself both in the eyes of “God” and society through confession, but it is soon clear that he abandons remorse. As he says at the end of the film, “We rationalize; we deny, or we couldn’t go on living.” Again, the relationship between Judah and the audience change. He is a cold-blooded killer, a crooked élite, and hated. Because at various moments Judah’s actions are considered mere misdemeanors, and at others they are crimes, we know there is not an objective morality, but a set of evolving exceptions, circumstance, and pity. There is a flexible system subjectively created by our own societal institutions.

Craig, William L. Ed. Bruce N. Waller. You Decide! Current Debates in Introductory Philosophy. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

Related posts:

Discussion of Woody Allen’s 1989 movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (Part 1)

Crimes and Misdemeanors: A Discussion: Part 1 Uploaded by camdiscussion on Sep 23, 2007 Part 1 of 3: ‘What Does Judah Believe?’ A discussion of Woody Allen’s 1989 movie, perhaps his finest. By Anton Scamvougeras. http://camdiscussion.blogspot.com/ antons@mail.ubc.ca _____________ Today I am starting a discusssion of the movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors” by Woody Allen. This 1989 […]

Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” wins an academy award (link to complete listing of all historical figures mentioned in “Midnight in Paris”)

Sleepers (1973)   Allen (left) wrote, directed and starred in this oddball love story, set 200 years in the future.  It was his first on-screen collaboration with Diane Keaton (second left), who went on to become one of the director’s muses in the early days of his career.   ___________ I have written more on […]

Can we learn from Woody Allen Films? (Part 2)

Looking at the (sometimes skewed) morality of Woody Allen’s best films. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Allen continues the art-as-salvation theme in Hannah and Her Sisters, an ensemble drama about family and infidelity. The film tells three stories, one of which stars Allen as a hypochondriac named Mickey. Terrified of death, Mickey begins a search […]

Chris Martin of Coldplay unknowingly lives out his childhood Christian beliefs (Part 3 of notes from June 23, 2012 Dallas Coldplay Concert, Martin left Christianity because of teaching on hell then he writes bestselling song that teaches hell exists)

Viva La Vida Published on Jun 23, 2012 by TheRyanj64 Coldplay’s Viva La Vida at American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 22, 2012 __________ Coldplay brought confetti, lights and thousands of fans to the American Airlines Center; see photos from their colorful show Photo Gallery News Sports Lifestyles   Comments (0)   5/11 Chris […]

“Woody Wednesdays” Woody Allen on God and Death

Good website on Woody Allen How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter? If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up. If only God would give me some clear […]

Michelangelo Antonioni influenced Woody Allen and was discussed by Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer discussed modern films and how they showed the state of man. That is why I like Woody Allen’s films so much. He knows what the big issues are in life and even though he present the right answers he does grapple with the right questions. Michelangelo Antonioni heavily influenced Allen and below is […]

Review of “To Rome with Love”

Jesse Eisenberg – Press Conference “To Rome With Love” Published on Apr 21, 2012 by portugal888 Review: Allen’s ‘Rome’ delivers lackluster love Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 11:06 a.m. MDT By David Germain View 4 photos » This film image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows, : Alec Baldwin as John, left, and Jesse Eisenberg […]

Woody Allen, ‘To Rome With Love’ Director, Talks ‘Midnight In Paris’ Success, Acting Career

How To Recover From a Break Up With Greta Gerwig Published on May 16, 2012 by younghollywood Young Hollywood is hanging out in NYC during the Tribeca film festival, where we chat with rising star Greta Gerwig about her hip slice-of-life movie, ‘Lola Versus’. Greta offers up some advice on how to get over a […]

June 14, 2012 Wall Street Journal interview of Woody Allen and he is still talking about the meaninglessness of existence

TO ROME WITH LOVE – conferenza stampa con Allen, Benigni e Cruz http://WWW.RBCASTING.COM Published on Apr 18, 2012 by RBcasting http://www.rbcasting.com Conferenza stampa del film “To Rome With Love”, scritto e diretto da Woody Allen. Tra gli interpreti, lo stesso Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page e Greta […]

Woody Allen’s worldview as seen in his movies

  I love the movie Crimes and Misdemeanors and have written on it many times in the past. This quote below sums up Woody Allen’s worldview which I disagree with. In fact, the person who said this actually could not live with its conclusions in the movie and committed suicide.   Because Allen continues to […]

Atheists have no basis for saying that Hitler was wrong!!!!!

On April 30, 2012 (67 years after Hitler killed himself) I stated on the Arkansas Times Blog: Hitler’s last few moments of life were filled with anxiety as they should have been. He went on to face his maker and pay dearly for his many sins. When I look at the never before released pictures […]

“Woody Wednesday” Will Allen and Martin follow same path as Kansas to Christ?

Several members of the 70′s band Kansas became committed Christians after they realized that the world had nothing but meaningless to offer. It seems through the writings of both Woody Allen and Chris Martin of Coldplay that they both are wrestling with the issue of death and what meaning does life bring. Kansas went through […]


Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: