Thread: Crimes and Misdemeanors, Parts Two & Three
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Before participating in this discussion board, please make sure you’ve re-watched the middle portion and the conclusion of Crimes and Misdemeanors while taking detailed notes. In addition, you will want to remind yourself of our discussion board standards by reviewing the discussion board rubric download.
Here’s what I want you to do in your initial post: In at least a full paragraph (minimum five sentences), explain briefly what you think is interesting, important, and meaningful. Do not generalize–Provide specific references to the film beyond plot: what do you see? what do you hear? You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you want to provide the basis for further discussion.
Crimes and Misdemeanors, Parts Two & Three
Again: consult your notes. You may post more than once if you’d like to engage more than one topic in detail. I do not want a review (an evaluation of whether or not you like the movie): I want you to contribute specific observations that we can use to begin to understand how this film works to construct meaning.
Make sure your post is up by the listed due date.
Then, after you’ve posted, you’ll be able to see your classmates’ posts. Respond to two of them–talk about, in at least three sentences, whether you see what they see in the film. Where are your interpretations similar? Different?
Responses need to be submitted by the following due date.
And, finally, it should go without saying that we a required to be respectful and courteous at all times.
“Do you agree the eyes are the windows of the soul?” Part II
For our second section of discussion and note taking, please watch the second third (to 1:08:40) of Crimes and Misdemeanors; you should use this note taking sheet downloadfor this section.
Sorry for such a long video last time; I promise not to do that to you again. I just felt it was necessary to establish potential manifestations of the abundant thematic material in this wonderful film. I think we really begin to see the payoff for tracking all of those motifs in the middle of the film.
At the beginning of our viewing, Judah makes his choice. On Judah’s birthday, poor Delores makes it all too clear that she is becoming more distraught (rather than less as Judah had hoped). The scene (among my favorites in the film) occurs in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. We begin to hear a voiceover of Judah’s earlier conversation with Rabbi Ben, and soon Ben appears, mainly in the background and shadows out of focus. The setting, imagery, and lighting all contribute to the mood and meaning of the scene. The element of fantasy here as well as terms of the debate are also crucial. Ben invokes the “Law,” which in Judaism is a central concept akin to compassion in Christianity, stating, “Without the Law, it’s all darkness…. You don’t think God sees?” Judah’s rather telling answer comes in materialistic terms: “God is a luxury I can’t afford…”
Crimes and Misdemeanors, Parts Two & Three
Another masterful and important scene involves Judah’s return to Delores’ apartment after her murder. Allen uses slow tilts and pans accompanied by dramatic classical scoring (likely Schubert) to give the impression of a grandiose tracking shot. To my mind, Allen is channeling Alfred Hitchcock. Earlier in the film Clifford takes his niece to a screening of one of Hitchcock’s more lighthearted films, Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Here, however, the allusion is to one of Hitchcock’s darkest pieces, the iconic horror film, Psycho:
Psycho predates MPAA rating, and, therefore, must avoid graphic violence…and yet it’s horrifying. Hitchcock achieves this effect as much through the aftermath of the killing as through the murder itself. The dying hand tears the curtain. The shower head continues to spew water, indifferently washing the victim’s blood down the drain. The swirling void of the drain dissolves to a swirling short of the victim’s open eye. The camera pulls out to reveal her inert face. The meaningless death sits with us in its finality and emptiness. Much like Allen’s subjective camera eye, Hitchcock’s camera moves on as the film leaves the now dead main character behind and realigns the story to the villain, Norman Bates…
But what is that impact? Why is it that Delores’ death–which he paid for–bothers Judah so thoroughly?
Toward the end of our viewing, Judah recollects a conversation he has with Delores about her eyes being the windows to her soul. Later, Judah tells Jack that he saw nothing in her dead eye, just a void. Maybe what is so horrifying is that without the Hebraic Law all is in fact darkness, just as Ben warned; without the Law, Judah must understand that Delores’ soul is just a fiction. And if that’s the case, the void of her eye reflects back to him his own soullessness, the meaninglessness of his own existence.
All of this means Judah finds himself in quite a predicament. If he’s to ‘get away with it,’ that means that the wicked are not punished after all. What sort of God would allow a world in which the wicked thrive? Judah finds this godless world psychologically (and spiritually) distressing. So, for his faith (and his soul) to be renewed he would have to be punished. Of course, this punishment would be far more severe than any penalties he would have faced had he come clean in the first place. So that means that all of his suffering, all of his agonizing over this decision were for naught. Judah now finds himself caught in a bitter irony indeed…
“And if a man commits a crime…?”Part III
For our final section of discussion and note taking, please watch the conclusion of Crimes and Misdemeanors; you should use this note taking sheet download for this section.
A number of threads come together here at the end, with quite a few features and scenes that deserve your close attention.
Judah revisits his childhood, both literally and figuratively, when he visits his childhood home. The debate over the presence of God’s judgment manifest as a memory that transforms into fantasy as Judah participates in the theological debate between his father and his aunt May.
Louis Levy–and thereby Clifford in his efforts as a filmmaker–serves as the voice of s a secular morality, and atheism that is still founded in a faith in justice. Thus, the failure of Clifford’s filmmaking projects serves as more than an individual failure, but rather the collapse of a whole system of thought. Levy’s end is tragic, but I do love the scene during which Clifford and Lester watch the profile together.
Continue to keep an eye on all themes and motifs that we’ve been tracking: eyes, films, siblings, marriage, etc. I’m going to avoid commenting on the ending of the film for now, but I will discuss it in detail in a video after our final discussion board on this film.