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Crimes and Misdemeanors
In Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors, most characters are consumed by questions of love and morality and the places where the two meet.
Judah's conflict clearly involves both love and morality, but more importantly, his problems deal with his essential psychological dichotomy: the disconnect between the outer self he has cultivated over the years and the inner self who threatens the sanctity and comfort of his outer life.
As Judah faces the potential revelation of his affair with Delores, he is mainly concerned with the destruction of the image he presents to most of the world - Judah the prominent ophthalmologist, the devoted husband, the loving father, the pillar of the Jewish community is about to be revealed as a common philanderer.
The Judah who has sneaked around with Delores for two years is incompatible with his public self, and yet, he must face that this too is a part of his essential character.
Judah's decision to keep Delores quiet at all costs is his attempt to silence the inner self of which he is ashamed.
However, the tragedy is that Delores is merely a symptom of his divided self, and her death does nothing to relieve his suffering; in fact, he is just as obsessed and worried after she is dead. Judah's problems come from within, and his attempts to blame outside forces fail miserably.
The divisions in Judah's character become evident in the first scene of the movie, where Judah is being honored for his accomplishments in the community. As he is introduced, we hear about his vast knowledge of all things, his expertise as an ophthalmologist and his generally affable nature.
The image Judah has presented to the world is seemingly flawless. Yet, with the close up of Judah's face, we see his discomfort with this praise.
Judah, it seems, knows that the outside world doesn't truly know him; he knows himself to have secrets no one at the banquet would ever guess.
The concept of Judah's dual selves is elaborated in the next scene at his home, which has taken place earlier in the day before the banquet. His secret inner life, known only to him and Delores, threatens his outer life when he intercepts a revealing letter from Delores to his wife Miriam. It is important to note that Judah's main concern upon reading the letter is not the desperate situation Delores finds herself, nor is it her apparent depression. Judah is concerned that his own infidelities would have been laid bare but his fortuitous interception of the letter. He now sees that his inner and outer selves can no longer peacefully coexist and something must be done to preserve his public persona (and thus his marriage, which is an important part of her image). The burning of the letter symbolizes the ritualistic destruction of the threat to his life, and the interspersing of his reading of the letter along with his banquet speech emphasizes the dichotomy within Judah's mind.
When we first meet Judah's lover, Delores, there is a stark contrast between her image, which is consistent both publicly and privately, and Judah's image. In her first shot, she appears as if she is in disguise, wearing a scarf to conceal her hair and dark glasses. There is something furtive about her demeanor as she enters her apartment and encounters Judah waiting for her.
In her appearance (and in attitude, as we soon see), she is the opposite of Judah - emotional where he is reserved, honest where he is not. In their conversation, Judah clearly sees himself as the victim in the situation, despite the fact that he has had a relationship with Delores for two years. In pleading with Delores, Judah talks about how he has been wronged, how he is suffering. "Are you trying to ruin my life, my family?" he asks Delores, disregarding what ruin has come to her as a result of their relationship. Here again we see Judah's conflicted self; he can no longer admit to his true feelings for Delores once his public image is threatened, and he works to maintain his outer self at all costs. Although Judah cites a desire to keep his marriage intact as the reason for wanting Delores's silence, he is once again dishonest. He does not mention an abiding love for his wife nor any real regret for his infidelity; instead, he tells Delores that he has "lived with Miriam for 25 years" and can't just leave her now. The public Judah, the one respected by friends and colleagues, cannot abandon his wife for a flight attendant, and this is the true reason he will not leave Miriam for Delores.
Judah's inner conflict escalates as Delores refuses to cooperate, and he faces mounting obstacles in his attempts to maintain what are essentially two separate lives.
His inner life creeps slowly outward into his outer life, causing him to lose focus at work, and when this happens, he turns to a patient who is, conveniently, a rabbi, for advice.
This scene begins with the darkened room lit only by the image of a white dot. We hear the voice of the rabbi: "I see it. I see it. I see it." He is referring to the white dot and his eye test, but his words and the imagery are also symbolic: Ben the rabbi, sees what the right path is, while Judah cannot. There is irony here: Ben is going blind and yet he sees, while Judah, who seems perfectly healthy on the outside, cannot see through the murky mores in his own mind.
Judah confesses to Ben, who calmly offers his advice without judgment. When Judah claims to recognize that he "may have" made some mistakes, Ben tells him: "It's called wisdom. It comes to some suddenly." Ben is forgiving, calling the affair a "small infidelity," perhaps because of Judah's place in the community and the goodwill he has built over the years.
Judah seems contrite, albeit for the wrong reasons; we definitely get the impression that Judah is sorry he got caught and sorry that his public life is being threatened. Ben suggests that Judah has a duty to tell Miriam and ask for her forgiveness, a suggestion that Judah rejects as impossible. He knows that a confession will cost him one of his carefully cultivated selves, and thus the price is too high.
In his conversation with Ben and later, we see Judah repeatedly blaming Delores and denying that she has been hurt in any way, and when he offers to pay her to go away, we see just how far apart Judah's two selves are. He merely pretends to be a moral man but his true morality is conditional and situational. This is confirmed when Delores reveals that Judah has embezzled funds from his philanthropic interests, a fact which he justifies by saying he paid all the money back with interest. This is a clear demonstration of Judah's willingness to use his outside persona to benefit his inner self, and it begins to become clear that the two selves are not necessarily as separate as he wants to believe; in fact, they are in many ways interdependent. For example, without his reputation and his charitable interests, he would not have had access to the cash.
The scene in which Cliff shows his footage of Professor Levy to Hallie is pivotal in bringing the moral and religious aspects to Judah's character to the forefront. Professor Levy gives us incite into the reasons why Judah is skeptical of the possibility of Miriam's forgiveness: the God Judah has grown up knowing isn't necessarily a forgiving god. Levy says: "We have not succeeding to create an entirely loving image of God. This was beyond our capacity to imagine." Levy is speaking of the God originally conceived by the Israelites and handed down through Jewish tradition, but the lesson is not lost on Judah. He cannot imagine forgiveness for his sins, forgiveness for being human, so he looks for other solutions to his problem.
Subsequent scenes with Cliff also show that Judah, while he goes to further extremes than the other characters, is not alone in having a secret self. Cliff is clearly falling in love with Hallie, and his sister reveals an embarrassing bondage incident with a man she met in the personals. Cliff's sister clearly identifies what drives them all to cultivate and keep secrets when it comes to love: "It's just so lonely out there," she says.
Judah works slowly but surely toward destroying whatever good he has left in him, and an important piece of this work happens when he meets with his brother Jack to discuss solutions to the Delores problem.
Jack is well-known for his underworld connections, and immediately sees through Judah's protestations that he isn't interested in permanently silencing Delores. "You called me because you needed some dirty work done. That's all you ever call for," Jack says of Judah's protestations. When Jack…[continue]
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In "Crime's" conclusion, set at Ben's daughter's wedding, Ben, who is the film's true just and loving man, copes with inevitable blindness, dancing sightless with his daughter the bride, as self-important Judah justifies the "crime" he has committed -- albeit told to Stern at the wedding, in a folkloric way). Judah has literally gotten away with murder. It is bleak, grim and evil triumphs. It is Allen at his darkest