"Lovely, poignant" (The Wall Street Journal) and laugh-out-loud funny, Shadows and Fog confirms Woody Allen's genius with its brilliant portrait of the hopelessbut hilarioustragicomedy of human existence. Boasting a dazzli... more »ng "galaxy of stars" (Leonard Maltin), including Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, John Malkovich, Madonna, Donald Pleasence, Lily Tomlin, Jodie Foster, Kathy Bates, John Cusack and Julie Kavner, Shadows and Fog delights with "all the fantasy and seriousness,mysterious construction and burlesque complications of a Shakespeare comedy" (Le Monde). Recruited by an inept mob of vigilantes, Kleinman (Allen), a cowardly clerk, is forced to search for a notorious murdereronly to stumble upon a feisty sword-swallower, Irmy (Farrow), runningaway from the circus and her 'clownish' boyfriend (Malkovich). Determined to help Irmy, and eager to escape the vigilantes, Kleinman abandons his search for the killer or so he thinks. Rushing headlong into the odious night, Kleinman and Irmy are launched into a mysterious world of shadows and fog from which they may never emerge.« less
Usually misunderstood, this film is one of Allen's best!
C. Bardi | Laurinburg, NC United States | 01/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film IS enjoyable: great actors, funny lines, and perfect atmosphere. Many of those who don't enjoy it say it is confusing, but the film can be easily understood as an allegory for the search for meaning (existentialism). A strangler-at-random serves as the representative of death, while the hapless characters try to figure out their lives and stay out of the strangler's way at the same time. You get to see all the "solutions" to the problem of life and death played out: sex, artistry, religion, science, childbearing, mob thinking, they're all there. As a perfect foil to all of these perspectives Allen plays a snivelling "everyman" with comic brilliance. If you really want to enjoy this movie, read the pulitzer prize- winning book, The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (the same book Diane Keaton threw at Woody in Annie Hall!). If The Denial of Death is cake, Shadows and Fog is the frosting."
The Most Underappreciated Woody Allen Film!
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 01/02/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"People really seem to absolutely hate this movie! Whether they're an Allen fan or not. But, I don't. I can see more good points to this film than bad. First of all, there's the acting. Woody Allen is going through his classic persona, dishing out oneliners, and wishcracks. Now with Allen in the lead, the rest of the cast seems to be like cameo performance. We have; Madonna, David Ogden Stiers, Donald Pleasence, Jodie Foster, Lilly Tomlin, John Cusack, Fred Gwynne, William H. Macy, Kathy Bates, and Kenneth Mars, and the list goes on and on! Each actor\actress is wonderful to watch, as in my opinion, the ensemble is amazing! The music by Kurt Weill fits perfectly in each and every scene. The use of Weill's score from the "Three Penny Opera", which included "Mack The Knife", was a great choice. For those of you who don't know, "The Three Penny Opera" had a similar story, that too was about a killer roaming around a small town. So, the choice for "Mack The Knife" as the movie's theme, matched perfectly. That song is about a murderer. The cinematography by Carlo Di Palma is wonderful, his use of the camera really adds to the effect the movie was aiming for, though many people hate the "mood" of the film. Every scene is filled with "Shadows and Fog". A great job was done by Santo Loquasto who was the production designer on the film, and, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, both did amazing work here. The story is about a killer is on the loose in a small town, we assume somewhere in Europe durning the 20's. The villagers of the town have decided to "act" like the police and track down the killer themselves. Their first mistake is to include Kleinman (Allen) in their plan. He is never given his assignment. He has no idea what he's suppose to do. So he walks around the desolate streets. Across town, the circus has come, and Irmy (Mia Farrow) and her boyfriend, simply named "Clown" (John Malkovich) are having trouble in their relationship. She wants to settle down and leave the circus, while he wants to remain "free", claiming he's an artist, and he needs his space. This causes Irmy to leave the circus herself, not knowing about the killer. The film then mostly consist of mishaps occuring for not only Kleinman, but every other character also. Some scenes are very funny, and I'll admit, some aren't as funny. Many are going to find the color of the movie a distraction. It's a very "dark" movie. But, if you just try for one second to stop complaing about the "mood" of the film, you might find that you actually enjoy this movie."
The Woodman does a Shakespearean Theme. Very Good
B. Marold | Bethlehem, PA United States | 04/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' and `Shadows and Fog' are two of Woody Allen's `second tier movies, less highly regarded than `Annie Hall', `Manhattan', and `Hannah and Her Sisters', but nonetheless a great pleasure to watch over and over again for anyone who has a taste for Allen's movies. The fact that Allen's movies, even these parodies of classic works and genres are primarily about characters and their personalities, passions, and foibles rather than about story, so you don't loose the primary reason for watching the movie as you do when you watch `The Maltese Falcon' or `Die Hard' or even `The Terminator' for the first time. I have seen both of these movies several times and I constantly find new pleasures in the dialogue.
Aside from their both being genre parodies, both movies share several other aspects, not the least of which is Allen's usual well oiled crew plus great `visiting' Director of Photography. I am constantly amazed at the consistently high level of quality in the filming of Allen's movies, since he has a great reputation for bringing his works in within schedule and under budget. Part of his economy is probably due to the fact that while Allen as director is not in the same league as Martin Scorsese or even Clint Eastwood, lots of actors drop what they are doing to be able to appear in the next Woody Allen film. And, they probably appear for a lot less money than they would for Marty or Clint. I also sense in some scenes that Allen lets little flubs go to the final print which Scorsese, for example, would reshoot until it was perfect.
The casts on these two films are fairly evenly balanced between Allen's ever evolving stock company with Mia Farrow appearing in both films along with Allen regulars Tony Roberts in `Midsummer's Night' and `David Ogden Stiers' and Wallace Shawn appearing in `Shadows and Fog'. Since the latter movie has a much larger cast, it is liberally peppered with currently famous or near famous actors giving cameo appearances such as Kathy Bates, John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Fred Gwynne, Julie Kavner, Madonna, Kate Nelligan, Donald Pleasance, Lily Tomlin, Kenneth Mars, William H. Macy, and John C. Reilly. John Malkovich contributes an excellent performance as the second most important male character in the movie.
The 1982 `A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' is certainly the lighter of the two as a parody on the theme of `A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Allan borrows Shakespeare's romantic mix-ups plot element on top of the idyllic forest venue to bring together two guest couples to the country home of Allen and Steenburgen. Jose Ferrer plays a polymath professor brother to Steenburgen's character. Ferrer is to marry Mia Farrow, many years his junior, on that Sunday at the country house. Tony Roberts plays a randy bachelor doctor brother to Allan's character. Hagerty is Roberts' office nurse of five weeks who comes along fully expecting a weekend of erotic experiences with her boss. It turns out that Allen knows Farrow and the romantic mix-ups take off from there.
The 1992 `Shadows and Fog' is an intentionally heavy parody of a mix of German impressionistic movies and Franz Kafka story lines with what seems like a cast of hundreds. It all takes place in what seems like pre-World War I Vienna, Berlin, or Prague or some other central European Germanic city. At the outset, it seems like a remake of the German film `M' starring the young Peter Lorre as a murderer. Unlike the `...Sex Comedy', the plot is much more involved. The first line involves Allen as a Kafkaesque cipher awakened in the middle of the night by a crowd of vigilantes with a plan to find a killer roaming the fog laden nighttime streets. The driving force of the plot involving Allen and the mob is that the vigilantes never tell Allen what his role is to be in this plan. They assume he knows his part and are irritated to the point of violence when Allen questions what it is he is supposed to be doing. The second major plot involves a dispute between circus performers Farrow (sword swallower) and Malkovich (clown) which breaks open when Malkovich is caught in a rendezvous with trapeze artist Madonna, the wife of the sleeping strongman. Allen and Farrow meet about half way through the film that brings Allen back to the circus after Farrow does a stint in a whorehouse and Allen comes close to being accused of being the murderer.
Both movies are primarily comedies, yet the humor in the first movie is based more firmly in the situation. The humor in the second movie seems to be more a relief from the perils faced by the two main characters. Although, the image of the positive side of having sex with a sword swallower is a very nice gag created by the characters' situations. On the other side of the coin, `Shadows and Fog' seems to have deeper observations about the human condition. Since I seem to be noticing some of these lines for the first time, after several viewings over the last 14 years, I feel even stronger about the durability of Allen's films.
Allen has always been a master of making very good use of familiar music in his movies. All the `incidental' music in `Midsummer Night' is from the works of Mendelsohn, including the music he composed for Shakespeare'' play to be performed in German. The music in `Shadows and Fog' is almost all taken from instrumental performances of works by Kurt Weill, primarily from `The Threepenny Opera' and the song `Whiskey Bar'.
Since I am a long time fan of Allen's movies, the only thing which disappoints me about these and all other of his DVDs is the fact that there is no director's commentary. This makes the difference between four and five stars for the DVD.
Recommended to any fans of Allen or comedy in general. "
Joshua Miller | Coeur d'Alene,ID | 12/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Woody Allen's "Shadows and Fog" has been called a "misfire" and is, in a sense, a forgotten film by Allen. It's hardly mentioned in conversations about his work. I consider myself a pretty big fan of Woody Allen, but the only reason I rented the movie was because John Malkovich was in it. Turns out, this is one of my favorite Woody Allen movies (I've seen 13). It's funny, well acted, has a huge array of stars, has perfect black & white cinematography, and is a pretty damn good movie. Allen plays Max Kleinman, a man who has fallen into a deep sleep only to be rudely awakened by his neighbors. They want his help in finding a serial strangler and Max, apparently, has a part in helping find him. Problem is, Max doesn't know what his part in it is. As Max walks around the gloomy, foggy area fearing the strangler will strike he encounters a bunch of quirky characters. One is Irmy (Mia Farrow), a circus sword-swallower who has ran away after catching her lover, Clown (Malkovich) cheating on her (with Madonna, no less). Before Max and Irmy actually run into each other, Irmy runs into a brothel that is occupied by such familiar faces as Jodie Foster, Lily Tomlin, and Kathy Bates. After she makes $700 for a one-night stand with John Cusack, she finally runs into Max. The movie's got a huge cast, with some actors' only turning up for a few moments. Some of the players include William H. Macy, Donald Pleasence, John C. Reilly, and many others. The movie has a gloomy, shadowy, and foggy (fitting, I guess) atmosphere which might be paying homage to early film-noir movies. The movie, like many Allen films, is fueled almost entire by dialogue and all of it's good and almost all of it's interesting. There are a few quotable lines in here. Since I've noticed most fans of Allen's don't like this film, I'll give you a general idea of what my taste in Allen is like. My favorite Allen movie is Annie Hall, my second favorite is Crimes & Misdemeanors, and my least favorite is Melinda & Melinda. All the performances (even though most of them are very brief) are good. Malkovich, as usual, steals most of his scenes and seems very comfortable reciting Allen's dialogue. Shadows and Fog is a great movie, for Woody Allen and just as a movie.
Developed appreciation of this sleeper classic
The Straw Man | Aloof October on April's Birthday | 07/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I original saw "Shadows and Fog" when it first came out on home video in like 1993 or 1994. When I saw this movie for the first time, it is safe to say "I didn't get it". I mean I liked it alright, but I really didn't get it. I think most people felt the same way, since this movie seems like the black sheep of the Woody Allen library.
I also really enjoy Woody Allen's work. I know that many people either love him or hate him. I think that probably works in his favor. I also find it interesting that society picks and chooses which celebrities' personal life will constitute if their body of work is good or not. Since a great deal of controversy has surrounded Woody Allen. Ultimately a person's personal life might have no real influence on the content of their body of work. In other words, Woody's lifestyle and/or relationship choices doesn't mean he isn't a good film maker. If this was the case than all rock stars who do/did drugs don't make really good music and/or sell many ablums, right?
Anyway, since I am a fan of Woody Allen and like many of his movies, I decided to take the risk and attain "Shadows and Fog" on DVD. My brother was kind enough and bought it for me as a gift. After my recent viewing of this film, I have to say that I am very pleased with what I watched. This movie really pays homage to German Expressionism and/or classic horror films of the 1940s/1950s. This is mainly due to the fact that this movie is shot in black and white and has a murky set design and wonderful cinematography. There is also an element of tension set through out the entire film.
Now this movie does have the Woody Allen staples: witty humor (even thought it is more buried than some of his other films), multiple stories, good characterization and philosophical undertones. This is all added to a plot of a serial killer lurking around one night that is shadowy and foggy. There is also a MacGuffin that is present through out the entire film, which really adds the magic of this film.
I suppose the reason I appreciate this movie more now than I did some 13 odd years ago, is because I am not the same person I was back then. My viewing of movies, education and life experiences brought a totally different viewer to the television when I watched this movie for the second time. It is quite interesting that a person can watch a movie at one point in time and have a certain perspective on it and watch it many years later having a totally dissimilar perception. This is exactly what happened during my viewing of "Shadows and Fog". I originally thought it was alright and now I think it is a wonderful movie.
I can also say I had the reverse effect when I watched "The Beastmaster" recently. When I was a kid this movie was awesome and kept me at the edge of my seat. When I saw it again as an adult, I couldn't stop laughing at how cheesy it was. Mind you I enjoyed it, but it was a totally different film. Droll."