At times, the weather can act as a compass and guide how a person feels. A person can feel gloomy if it is raining – a person can feel happy if it is sunny – and a person can feel cloudy if they watch this film Directed by Woody Allen, and Starring the man himself with Kathy Bates, John Cusack, Mia Farrow, Jodie Foster, William H. Macy, John Malkovich, and Madonna. It was made in 1991, and lasts for 85 minutes.
Shadows and Fog
I am afraid to say that nervous bookworm, Kleinman (Woody Allen) is a very confused man at the moment.
You see, he is woken up at the stroke of midnight by a vigilante committee, and then told to go out into the streets and search for a murder.
Unfortunately, though, when this committee then leaves him, Kleinman does not really know how to go about this - and neither does Mortician (Donald Pleasence) either.
Well, except her confusion is tinged with lust. As she finds her husband, the clown (John Malkovitch), in a compromising position with the acrobat (Madonna). Next, she runs away from the circus and befriends a group of prostitutes (Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates, and Jodie Foster). ;And finally, she agrees to sleep with a student (John Cusack), for money of course.
Now, by chance, during this time, Kleinman and Irmy bump into each other amidst there nocturnal travels. Moreover, as time ticks on, they try to help each other out with there individual predicaments.
For Kleinman, Irmy helps him out during his patrol – and for Irmy, Kleinman help her out with what she should do with her money.
However, when Kleinman is eventually approached by numerous factions of the vigilance committee, and then accused by a policeman (William H Macy), that he is the murderer, both Kleinman and Irmy part ways like a couple of ping-pong balls in a tumbler.
Kleinman just darts around all over the place, and tries to find a place to hide – such as in his ex-fiancés house (Julie Kavner), and at the brothel with the prostitutes too. Whilst Irmy on the other hand, is approached by her husband, the clown (whom has found out that she slept with the Student), just before finding a newborn baby by the side of its murdered Mother.
Well, I suppose that is why what then transpires is both a bold and a brave extravaganza held at the circus! Where murderers attack – Irmy screams – Magicians (Kenneth Mars) perform – and Kleinman accepts a proposition that he just cannot refuse.
Do you know what? I thought of another name for ‘Shadows and Fog’ whilst I was watching this film – ‘Confusion and Curiosity’. Please note, I do not mean this in a bad way of course - no sir-re. I just mean it in a way that these two words could also describe this nourish ‘Grimm’s Fairy tale’ to a tea.
You see, I say ‘confusion’, because all of the characters in this film always appear confused. And ‘curiosity’, because in essence that is what this film is.
Now to explain this latter remark, I would have to tell you a little about the man who made this film first, Woody Allen, as well as the man whom inspired him also.
As you know, Woody is a man of many facets and talents – he is a comedian – he is a writer – he is a director – and on top of that, he is a big fan of Ingmar Bergman too. Now for those of you who have not heard of Bergman before, let me just say that he was a Swedish artistic filmmaker from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, and during this time he created expansive black and white epics such as the 'The Seventh Seal', 'Through The Glass Darkly', and 'Winter Light'. Conceptually, all of these films dealt with matters associated to faith, God, and kinship, whilst at the same time being rasterized onto the silver screen in a rather bleak and contrasting way. Here, have a look at this clip to see what I mean...
Personally speaking, what I think Woody had tried to do with ‘Shadows and Fog’, is to take the basic overlay of a ‘Bergman film’, and then performed his own spin on it - as it were. That is why this film feels like a travelling and encompassing film you see – with each of the actors involved poking in and out of each other’s adventures. Granted, the main thrust of this tale is the individual and intertwining journeys that both Woody’s and Mia’s characters take. But aesthetically, it is about their interpersonal relationships with both God and Man, and how they cope with this facet in the process.
OK, so now taking all of what I have just said into account, does any of this make this black and white film a hit or a miss? Errr – a bit of both really. I like all of the actors involved, because every single one of them brings something to the table that is very memorable and captivating to watch. Woody is the nervous bookworm – Mia is the naïve performer – Malkovich is the artistic adventurer – Cusack is the philosophical student – and Bates, Foster, and Tomlin, as the whores with the hearts of gold.
However, to juxtapose this stance a tad, there were times during this film, that the contrasting ambiance did interfere with the plot and tone conveyed – and made this movie come across just a mite too bleak for my liking.
Nevertheless, my overall judgement on this film is just like what the title conveys, a mixture of dark and light, and neither one of them apparent to which is which.
Therefore, if you are a fan of either Mr Allen’s work, Mr Bergman’s work, all start cast films set in black and white, or alternatively, films such as ‘Young Frankenstein’, ‘After Hours’, or ‘High Anxiety’ – this is defiantly a film for you.
A forgotten classic by any other name.
THE RATING: A