Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 26
Crimes and Misdemeanors October 13, 1989
Crimes and Misdemeanors opens

When Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors opened in the fall of 1989, it was not exactly the film he’d originally intended to make. Allen would often reshuffle a movie in the editing room to find the story, thus requiring him to go back for reshoots. But with Crimes and Misdemeanors, Allen went much further than usual. Allen had joked that the impulse for this drama of moral ambiguity sprang from “being too nice” to the characters in his 1986 Hannah and Her Sisters. In his review for the New York Times, Vincent Canby picked up on the connection between the two films when he wrote that “Crimes and Misdemeanors… recalls Hannah in that it has the richness and breadth of a novel, told with the concision of a densely packed short story. Like Hannah, it's about families, though about brothers rather than sisters.” Indeed, at one time the film had the title Brothers, as the double-layered tale (one involving a murder, the other the meaning of life) was plotted around two pairs of brothers. In the first story, Dr. Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a dentist, who gets his brother Jack (Jerry Orbach) to help find a contact killer to murder an ex-mistress (Anjelica Huston) who has threatened to go public with their affair.. The other story revolves around Cliff Stern (Woody Allen), a documentary filmmaker in need of work, who is employed by his brother-in-law Lester (Alan Alda), a TV producer whose work Stern abhors. (Lester is reportedly based on Larry Gelbart, with whom both Allen and Alda had worked.) In Allen’s fashion, the rambling plots and subplots once in the editing room had to be reworked, and the cast and crew were called back for 10 days of reshoots. Sean Young, who’d already been replaced in Batman that year, found her role completely cut out. Alda, on the other hand, found his part expanded. In the end, the tinkering worked. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, and became Allen’s highest grossing film (after Hannah) of the 1980s. For Allen, however, such success is never easy. He later claimed, “When I put out a film that enjoys any acceptance that isn't the most mild or grudging, I immediately become suspicious of it. A certain amount of positive response makes me feel comfortable and proud. Then beyond that, I start to feel convinced that a work of any real finesse and subtlety and depth couldn't be as popular as it is."


More Flashbacks
Casablanca November 26, 1942
Casablanca released

In New York City, stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, gathered for the premiere of Casablanca.

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November 26, 1993
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould released

Few knew what to expect from a film called Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould when it opened in New York.

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November 26, 1993
A Life in Fragments

In the same month and year that Jane Campion’s The Piano was released, going on be nominated for 8 Oscars and winning three, a little known filmmaker from Toronto, François Girard, released Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a bio-pic of sorts about the man that many consider to be one of the world’s greatest pianist. Taking its structure from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the film mixes short pieces of documentary, animation, narrative (with Colm Feore playing Gould), and performance to throw light on this complex artist. Girard commented that “as Gould was such a complex character, the biggest problem was to find a way to look at his work and deal with his visions. The film is built of fragments, each one trying to capture an aspect of Gould.” The film also helped break open the biopic genre to all sorts of experimentation and transformation, as well as becoming iconic for innovative cinema. In 1996, for example, The Simpsons released their own tribute "22 Short Films About Springfield."

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