Shadows and Fog (1991)


Dir: Woody Allen - Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, John Cusack, Donald Pleasence, Madonna, Philip Bosco, Jodie Foster, Kathy Bates, Lily Tomlin, Charles Cragin, William H. Macey, Fred Gwynne, John Malkovich

Woody’s homage to German expressionist movies (notably Fritz Lang’s M, Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder) and the world of Kafka, with some typical Allen wit & wisdom added. The film was entirely shot on a studio set (2,400 m2) at Kaufman Studios, New York. The budget has been estimated at $14 million and with the film only grossing a mere $2 million, it's one of Woody’s major financial failures.

Allen himself plays a cleck called Kleinman who’s awakened in the middle of the night by a vigilante mob and asked to assist them in the search for a serial killer on the loose. When Kleinmann leaves his house to catch up with the mob, the streets seem deserted, and most of the time we see him aimlessly walking around the town, encountering all kind of strange folk and eventually becoming the main suspect in the case. All this doesn’t prevent him from falling in love with a circus performer, sword swallower Irmy (Mia Farrow) who has left her husband, the womanizing clown Paul (John Malkovich).

Allen once said: As long as my movies don’t make money, I must be doing something right. In this case the failure doesn’t pay off. Shot in black & white, the large studio set constantly shrouded in fog, this is a cleverly constructed, beautifully looking homage to European arthouse cinema, but the beauty feels artificial and with dialogue that’s never as sparkling as in some of the director’s best work, the cleverness feels cold. The numerous cameo appearances (by Jodie Foster, Lili Tomlin, John Cusack and even Madonna) are fun but also work distracting. Allen has a knack of synthesizing themes and genres, but in this particular case the combination doesn’t gel. It all fits, but the magic isn’t there. 6/10


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