Sunday, March 29, 2015

An Essay on Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors



Bilbo said...

Bill Vallicella posted part of an interview of Woody Allen here. On the meaning of Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody said:

"I feel that is true—that one can commit a crime, do unspeakable things, and get away with it. There are people who commit all sorts of crimes and get away with it, and some of them are plagued with all sorts of guilt for the rest of their lives and others aren’t. They commit terrible crimes and they have wonderful lives, wonderful, happy lives, with families and children, and they have done unspeakably terrible things. There is no justice, there is no rational structure to it. That is just the way it is, and each person figures out some way to cope…. "

Bilbo said...

Vallicella's follow up article is worth reading, also.

Hal said...

Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of my favorite movies. One doesn't have to agree with him to find it a very deep and moving work of art. He is in that class of film makers that tries to grapple with the differences between art and reality.

B. Prokop said...

I put Crimes and Misdemeanors into that unfortunately too large category of films that I like (or even love) individual scenes in, but the whole does nothing for me.

A lot of Marlon Brando's movies are like that for me. There are some spectacularly good scenes in On the Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire for instance, but neither of those films are anywhere near my list of favorites (which you can see on my profile).

You want to watch the best of the best in cinema? Try just about anything by Yasujiro Ozu. They don't come any better!

Victor Reppert said...

I think Allen's films provide a forceful rebuttal to sanguine claims that are made on behalf of "Ethics Without God." It seems to me that, if we take Allen's message seriously, atheism, even if it is true (and Allen thinks it is true), atheism is ethically damaging in a significant range of cases.

Hal said...

Not sure how you get that from Woody's films. He obviously takes ethics quite seriously.
Ethics can be more complicated and problematic in an atheistic system, but that doesn't make it damaging. Unless one mistakenly believes that ethics can only come from God. And Woody is clearly not saying that ethics can only come from God.

Victor Reppert said...

It isn't that ethics can come only from God. It is just that on an atheistic view it is perfectly possible for them to "get away with murder" and avoid punishment, even the internally imposed punishment of guilt feelings, which, it seems, can be overcome.

Victor Reppert said...

Particularly interesting is the difference between the outcome of Allen's movies and Crime and Punishment, which can only be explained in terms of the difference between Allen's atheism and Dostoyevsky's Russian Orthodox Christianity.

There is an ugly side to all of this, in that Allen has been accused of his own crimes and misdemeanors. Not murder, of course, but being a pedophile.

Of course, Allen has not been proven guilty, but then, neither were his protagonists in the two movies. Did he fall into "everything is permitted" reasoning in his own life?

Surely, a belief in ultimate moral accountability is hardly the only motive for being moral.

Papalinton likes this quote: "If religion cannot restrain evil. it cannot claim effective power for good." M Cohen, American professor of Philosophy and Law.

But I think that in many many, many instances, it does restrain evil. Of course, when it does restrain evil, it doesn't make it onto the evening news.

B. Prokop said...

"But I think that in many many, many instances, [religion] does restrain evil. Of course, when it does restrain evil, it doesn't make it onto the evening news."

Reminds me of my last years in the Defense Department. I was in charge of the office responsible for delivering lethal threat intelligence warnings to our troops in the field. Nobody ever heard about when we were successful (because in that case, nothing happened), but only when we failed (because the consequences of that were all too obvious).

Religion is such a massive, overwhelming positive force for good in the lives of billions upon billions of anonymous people in all times and countries. And this goes for nearly every religion - not just Christianity. Human life is richer, more beautiful, and more meaningful whatever faith one holds - because of that faith. But (quite naturally) we never hear in the news about someone not committing a crime, or not abandoning his family, or not ruining his life with alcohol or pornography or extramarital affairs or whatever, at least in part because of his religion, but boy do we hear about the unfortunate exceptions to the rule! (And they are exceptions.)

B. Prokop said...
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