[box cover]

Shadows and Fog

The Woody Allen Collection: Volume Two

  • Alice
  • Another Woman
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors
  • September
  • Shadows and Fog

  • Summary
  • After nearly fifteen years of consistently solid, tremendously thoughtful, and often brilliant filmmaking Woody Allen blows it. Revamping his early one-act play Death, Allen's attempt at mixing farce and existential exploration in this 1992 effort is a befuddled, aimless mess — albeit quite a nice looking one. Beautifully shot in the black and white of early German Expressionist cinema, Shadows and Fog is set in what appears to be a 1920-ish European town (one that uses American currency, apparently) in the grip of terror as a strangling maniac stalks the foggy night, killing indiscriminately. The meant-to-be-funny part of the film involves Allen, as a typically neurotic nebbish, reluctantly enlisted in a vigilante plan to catch the murderer, although he is never briefed on his mission and thus wanders aimlessly through the dark streets in a fit of cowardly paranoia. Such was the text of the source play Allen reinvents by adding several other plot lines, all of which cross paths but none of which combine to any effect. Mia Farrow appears as a sword-swallower from the circus, who also walks the dangerous streets after falling out with her clown boyfriend (a funny but underutilized John Malkovich), indulges a moment of prostitution with a randy university student (John Cusack), and befriends Allen, encouraging him to stick up for himself. The rest of the all-wasted-star cast includes Jodie Foster as a whore, Lily Tomlin as another whore, Kathy Bates as yet another whore, and Madonna as a circus performer who acts like a whore (this was a recurring theme throughout the wane of Allen's career — so much for his tradition of typically complex female characters). As Shadows and Fog shifts from occasionally funny scenes of Allen confronting angry mobs, to trite philosophical discussions about death, to docudramaesque dialogues about sex, and new characters introduced every couple of minutes, it's hard to tell what Allen was trying to achieve. Few of the stories follow any discernible dramatic escalation, motivation, or resolution, and those that do are sharply undermined by an out-of-nowhere illusionist anticlimax and puzzling epilogue. Overall the film feels like scraps of ideas Allen has entertained over the years thrown into one pot because he couldn't think of anything better to do. Sadly, this feeling, save for two exceptions, predominates Allen's work for the rest of the decade. With brief early appearances by William H. Macy and John C. Reilly. Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby 2.0 mono. Trailer, keep-case.
    —Gregory P. Dorr



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