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Written by / 5/07/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , ,

ROAMING WOODY ALLEN'S SHADOWS AND FOG

Inside the Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu Ray after Removing Disc and Booklet MOVIE YEAR: 1993
"Nothing is more terrifying than attempting to make people laugh, and failing," says John Malkovich as Clown, his name being his job at a traveling circus, one that happened to stop at a fog shrouded town with a killer on the loose, resembling London's famous Baker Street while the entire SHADOWS AND FOG is a combination of Film Noir, which includes the Wrong Man aspect catapulting the plot-line halfway through, and a general homage to the notorious Jack the Ripper legend...

Exploits Madonna Cameo
And Woody doesn't fail at the humor, and yet FOG isn't entirely funny, and doesn't try to be, although Allen's neurotic Kleinman, like all his characters in most of his films, rants and raves without end...

And this, being the second to last vehicle before his career would hit a controversial road block concerning girlfriend and decade-long collaborator Mia Farrow, who, as Irmy the Sword Swallowing, cheated-on wife of Clown (he hit the hay with a slutty trapeze artist played safely by Madonna)...

This sweet, innocent, virtuous wife, in revenge and on her own through the misty night, makes $700 for a brothel quickie with rich kid university student John Cusack, who would further channel his guru, starring in the same year's misfire, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY. Here he much too perfectly spouts existential dialogue as if the middle-aged Allen became a cute suburban version of his younger, pontificating, Atheist/Liberal self... John's going through the motions, sure, and yet his motions are pretty darn good. (After all, Cusack, along with the likes of Matthew Broderick and Robert Downey Jr, whether teens at the time realized it or not, were the 1980's new Woody Allen types.)

Woody alone
But we're skipping ahead. Returning back to the argument quoted earlier: "A family is death to the artist," Malkovich's Clown further explains to a rambling, scrambling, ticked-off Farrow, "I need quiet!"

Oh the irony of that line: For in real life, Farrow was attempting to adopt another handful of children while Woody made off with one of her first; a young Vietnamese girl who... Well that's all part of creepy pop culture history, and doesn't matter for his hardcore fanbase, and yet, in an artistic sense, it does... true Woodheads with the Ernest Hemingway "built-in BS detector" know when Allen's greatness ended...

Without Mia's assistance, which rejuvenated his canon after the Diane Keaton collaborations ran out post MANHATTAN, starting with the underrated romp A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT SEX COMEDY; Woody and Mia's most "unlike themselves" roles in BROADWAY DANNY ROSE; sustaining with the brilliant soap operatic HANNAH AND HER SISTERS; creatively peaking with 1989's pure masterpiece CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS; and ending with a shaky-cam pseudo-documentary HUSBANDS AND WIVES a year after this feature, which, unlike that semi-intriguing, completely self-indulgent mess, FOG wields sublime direction like no other Woody Allen motion picture, the camera gliding throughout the haunted, hunted, fog-shrouded streets, feeling like a 1930's James Whale production with our hero's humor thrown in, and in and in and then back out again...

The Shadow
Meanwhile, various vigilante groups are after the mysterious killer, a tall Nosferatu type shown towards the beginning and deleting any Mystery aspect for the audience, not the characters, and Woody's Wrong Man, accused by all collaborative groups carrying torches throughout the mazy boulevards, who all seem to despise Allen's "Kleinman" as much as he despises his own existence, as usual, simply allows more jokes to be spoken at a faster pace. Some quips work, others don't (for the first time he seems to be too old for such energetic neuroticness), and most don't matter simply because the lovely black/white cinematography, partially-lighting paved streets, winding and weaving throughout and around closed-door, castle-like buildings, keeping the eye inspired while the ear gets their penny dreadful worth of what often feels like Woody being right on the verge of doing an imitation of himself...

Woody Allen
There wouldn't be many films after FOG where he starred, or even appeared at all; his post-Mia "Woodyless" creative peak being CELEBRITY featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, followed by an eclectic maze of mostly let-downs and several "kill someone and feel guilt or no guilt" Neo Noirs in the vein of CRIMES, all either inspired by old 1940's melodramas or Fyodor Dostoevsky, ranging from the big hit, MATCH POINT, to last year's forgotten IRRATIONAL MAN...

But SHADOWS AND FOG is a wonderfully murderous fable and the last time Woody goes full out with his style, and actually takes a great risk paying homage to the style of many other stylists (true life or otherwise) without it feeling like a Mel Brooks-type satire. The piano-wire strangling murders are, in fact, extremely serious; the stalking death scenes are genuinely spooky, filmed with the taut precision of a bonafide horror flick; and the characters all seem very real, especially the carnival couple played by Farrow and Malkovich, who wind up as our most important buried leads, sort of like the two marrieds in SEVENTH SEAL directed by Woody's favorite auteur, Ingmar Bergman. That is, while the most intriguing aspect is Allen's ultimate "Game of Death" i.e. facing a palpable enemy, we find freedom in young, undying, undeniable love that, unfortunately, didn't last for an incredible duo/couple who complimented each other with over a decade of terrific films.

Sweet Mia
In Mia's case, following a string of eclectic ventures after making and breaking with the classic ROSEMARY'S BABY, and divorcing one of the most famous men in the world, Frank Sinatra...

Under Woody's lens, Farrow got to TRULY act for a while – this while Woody got an ingenue who could pull off just about any role, whether crying, lying, dreaming, screaming, whispering, or whatever else she channelled through his cinematic genius, adding to the rich texture and not just playing along...

For while the quick-witted Diane Keaton was his perfect collaborator of straight-out comedy, Mia was a springboard in which he could delve further into a wondrous bag of fantastical tricks, this being one of the better despite an ominous feeling throughout: Not of the tall killer lurking in the SHADOWS, but the phantom end of a seemingly timeless pair; something waiting around the corner, ready to pounce onto the proverbial street where, to coin a phrase, it was good... no, make that great... while it lasted.

Being John
RATING: ****
TRIVIA: Many actors appear in the background, mostly as members of the vigilante groups, that would become famous in years to come including W.H. Macy, soon to change to William H. Macy of FARGO and FEARLESS fame; BOOGIE NIGHTS cool dude John C. Reilly; and going way back, THE MUNSTERS icon Fred Gwynne, who Allen probably enjoyed more in ON THE WATERFRONT than any TV series...

And not that it matters, but a few of the sexed-up hookers would "come out of the closet" in years to come including Lily Tomlin, Jodie Foster, and, off that subject, perhaps, the Madame is played by Oscar Winner Kathy Bates • SHADOWS AND FOG, along with another Woody Neo Noir, and the best Woodyless i.e. Woody Allen movie without Woody in it is PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, reviewed soon, are both part of the Limited Edition (already purchased by yours truly) Twilight Time Blu Ray series!
Woody and Mia search for vigilantes or a killer and alas we'd soon never see the wonderful duo together again on screen
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