Shadows and Fog

Synopsis: “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 hopeless – but hilarious – tragicomedy of human existence. Boasting a dazzling “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 murderer – only to stumble upon a feisty sword-sallower, Irmy (Farrow), running away 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 launching into a mysterious world of shadows and fog… from which they may never emerge.
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Shadows and Fog 8.5

A vastly under-rated movie (even my own rating might be too low), this is Woody Allen at the top of his game – revisiting life, death and religion in the context of a comedy about a manhunt for a serial killer.

I haven’t read anything to this effect, but much of the dialogue and story seems to be a metaphor for the quest for religious faith in the face of humanity’s mortality. Case-in-point: while the killer is stalking this little town in what seems to be a random pattern, groups of people band together to stop the killer – yet can’t agree on how to go about it and end up fragmenting into little discordant clans that waste their time fighting amongst themselves when they could instead be solving the mystery. Meanwhile, they recklessly blame the deaths on those who won’t join their groups – including Woody Allen, who makes a terribly insightful little speech about 2/3 of the way into it.

With a superb cast, terrific black and white cinematography, and what was then the biggest set ever built in New York, it’s a must-see for those interested in Allen’s work. And it’s a lovely, hilarious romp.

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