Thoughts on Shadows and Fog (a movie about expressionism)

Saturday, November 6, 2010 2:37 PM By Simon

-Yeah, I'm giving reviews subtitles now. Helps me concentrate.

-Kleinman (Woody Allen) is a clerk waken from a 'deep sleep' in the middle of the night by a vigilante mob, looking for a serial killer dubbed 'The Strangler' (although he reportedly also slits throats), who bully/demand him to get dressed and meet them downstairs. He does, but nobody is around, and as the story progresses, nobody tells him what his part in 'the plan' is, so he's left to wander around.

-Anyway. Mia Farrow is a sword swallower named Irmy, whose clown boyfriend (John Malkovich) has just cheated on her with the circus tightrope artist (Madonna, not sucking for once). She's left to wander around the city Kleinman lives, taken in by a brothel (where local student John Cusack gives hr 700 bucks to sleep with him), then brought to the police station during a raid, where she meets Kleinman.

-It's all one big parody of German Expressionist films (particularly Fritz Lang, and M), and Franz Kafka. As my only experience with Allen films thus far have been Celebrity and Husbands and Wives, this is a nice breather from bourgeois couples yelling neurotically at each other.

-And, of course, a lovely cast. Lily Tomlin, Jodie Foster, and Kathy Bates play prostitutes at the brothel Irmy stays at, Julie Kavner is Kleinman's jilted ex-fiancee, Eszter Balint shows up briefly as a starving young mother, Donald Pleasence is a really intense doctor, and Kurtwood Smith is one of the mob. And John C. Reilly is in the background for five seconds as a policeman. Which is weird.

-So, yes. Tis funny and witty and clever and not annoying at all.


Andreas said...

Shadows & Fog is benign enough because it's Woody just doing harmless pastiche of movies he love. That, and it has a giant (but mostly wasted) ensemble cast with everyone the early '90s has to offer.

But oh no, if your only Woody experience has been with his '90s stuff, get thee to Manhattan or Annie Hall or Bananas as soon as possible! Or Purple Rose of Cairo, or Crimes and Misdemeanors. But definitely go back to the '70s and '80s; he made some real masterpieces.

November 8, 2010 at 8:48 PM
Anonymous said...

I have always liked this more than people have generally allowed. Cusack is at top form.

November 11, 2010 at 9:59 PM
Simon said...

Andreas: I plan on it, I do. But this was on hold at the library for months, and I love me some pastiche.

James: No, he never really struck a chord with me. His role was so small and, at some point, rendered pointless. But this is a very underrated movie.

November 15, 2010 at 6:34 PM