Sunday, July 14, 2013

Shadows and Fog

Written, directed, and starring Woody Allen, Shadows and Fog is the story about a clerk who is asked by a vigilante group to help him capture a serial killer where he later meets a circus performer as they spend an entire night encountering strange things. Based on Allen’s one-act play called Death, the film is a tribute to the works of Franz Kafka as well as the German Expressionism films of early 20th Century as Allen explores the world of death and love. Also starring Mia Farrow, John Malkovich, Madonna, John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Kenneth Mars, Kathy Bates, Philip Bosco, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, Kurtwood Smith, and Wallace Shawn. Shadows and Fog is a visually-entrancing though sort of messy film from Woody Allen.

A killer (Michael Kirby) is on the loose during a shadowy and foggy night in the early 20th Century where a nebbish clerk named Kleinman (Woody Allen) is reluctantly part of a vigilante group to capture this killer. Meanwhile, a circus performer named Irmy (Mia Farrow) leaves her boyfriend Paul (John Malkovich) after catching him making out with another circus performer. Kleinman and Irmy would cross paths where they would encounter more vigilantes who believe Kleinman is the killer as well as all sorts of strange things in the course of an entire night. It’s a story that definitely recalls some of the work of German Expressionist filmmakers like Fritz Lang as well as the ideas of writer Franz Kafka.

Yet, not everything in Woody Allen’s script works as it’s obvious that Allen wants to create a blend of suspense, comedy, and drama with themes of existentialism and bravery. Unfortunately, all of those ideas couldn’t come together to make something cohesive where things get messy while the Kleinman character is not one of Allen’s great creations.

Allen’s direction is quite entrancing as he definitely wants to go for that look of not just film noir but also German Expressionism as he sets the film in the early 20th Century where it’s always filled with a lots of shadows and fog to create an atmosphere. Filled with some very exotic shots in many of the film’s exteriors as it’s all shot in a studio along with some long-takes to play out this very strange world. There’s also some sequences where Irmy would seek refuge from prostitutes to give the film a break from the suspense for something more relaxing though it does hurt the film’s pacing a bit. While Allen’s approach to humor isn’t anything new, it does have some moments that are fun to watch though the scenes of Kleinman often being accused and such does get tiresome. Overall, Allen creates a fine though messy film about a man and a woman going after a serial killer.

Cinematographer Carlo Di Palma does brilliant work with the film‘s stylish black-and-white photography for many of the film‘s exteriors to create shadows and shades to set the mood while keeping things more straightforward in the interior scenes with the exception of the scenes at the circus. Editor Susan E. Morse does nice work with the editing to play up some of its suspense and humor with its straightforward approach to cutting. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with art director Speed Hopkins and set decorators George DeTitta Jr. and Amy Marshall, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of the exterior sets to the look of the circus and brothel the characters encounter.

Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland does terrific work with the costumes from the look of the prostitutes and circus performers to the clothes the police and vigilantes wear. Sound editor Robert Hein does excellent work with the sound to play up many of the film‘s suspense with its sparse sounds and other moments to emphasize its humor. The film’s music largely consists of circus music as well as the works of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht to play up the period of the time.

The casting by Juliet Taylor is fantastic for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Michael Kirby as the killer, Donald Pleasence as a doctor doing autopsies, John C. Reilly and William H. Macy as police officers, Wallace Shawn as a business rival of Kleinman, Julie Kavner as Kleinman’s ex-fiancee who wants to kill him, Kate Nelligan as Kleinman’s girlfriend who is upset when he asks if Irmy could crash at her place, Charles Chagrin as a mysterious spiritualist named Spiro, James Rebhorn, David Odgen Stier, Daniel von Bargen, Kurtwood Smith, and Fred Gwynne as vigilantes, Josef Sommer as a priest, Philip Bosco as Kleinman’s cruel boss, and Kenneth Mars as the circus magician Armstead whom Kleinman adores.

Other notable small performances includes Madonna as a circus performer Paul makes out with, John Cusack as a student who frequently goes to the brothels, and as the trio of prostitutes, Jodie Foster, Kathy Bates, and Lily Tomlin as they give very wonderful performances. John Malkovich is excellent as Paul as a circus performer who wants to be respected as he cheats on Irmy where he later tries to find her and gain her forgiveness. Mia Farrow is amazing as Irmy as a sword-swallowing performer who is frustrated by Paul as she seeks to find herself while helping Kleinman catch the killer. Finally, there’s Woody Allen in a fine performance as Kleinman as a man who reluctantly takes part in finding a killer though he has no idea what to do as he’s often being cowardly.

Shadows and Fog is a good film from Woody Allen though it’s a messy one despite its gorgeous visuals and a brilliant ensemble cast. Though it’s definitely one of Allen’s weaker films, it is still engaging for the way he is able to create a suspense-comedy in the form of German Expressionism and make it enjoyable. In the end, Shadows and Fog is a terrific film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money & Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Husbands & Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Don’t Drink the Water - Bullets Over Broadway - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

© thevoid99 2013

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