Shadows and Fog

by Spiros Gangas

In the 1920s an unknown town is under the shadow of a murderer who strangles his victims. Kleinmann (Allen) is forced by locals to join them in their hunt for the killer while at the same time a circus arrives in town led by lrmie (Mia Farrow) the sword-swallower, The Clown (Malkovich) and Marie (Madonna) the high-wire artist. Irmie, after wandering in the streets, finds shelter in a brothel where she sleeps with Jack (John Cusack) for $700. After a typically Allenesque series of labyrinthine encounters between Kleinmann, the Clown and Irmie, the first is mistaken for the killer and after being chased by the angry mob he finds refuge in the circus where the killer himself also appears...

Stylistically, this is undoubtedly a departure for Allen and it is a homage to the films of German Expressionism, particularly Lang's M and Murnau's Sunrise. It is a parody of that genre in a way reminiscent in its aim of Love and Death and its ridicule of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In Shadows and Fog the already known caricatures which have appeared over the years in Allen's previous films are present here as welll with the director himself playing the clumsy character we have been accustomed of seeing on the screen. The atmosphere to Allen's credit is beautifully sustained throughout the film and it is largely due to Carlo Di Palma's black and white photography and to the numerous Kurt Weill songs which recur on the soundtrack. However, the acute depiction of the filmic atmosphere Allen sought to express overshadows whatever novelty he attempted to introduce in terms of content. There are hardly any new insights and one is left to enjoy the parade of Hollywood names (including Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster and Donald Pleasance), the nightmarish atmosphere and the occasional laughs guaranteed by Allen's portrayal of the helpless Kleinmann.

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