A small and insignificant bookkeeper, Kleinman, is awoken one night by his neighbors who wants his help to track down a strangler who has been killing people all over town. The citizens form vigilance committees, but when Kleinman has dressed, his neighbors have disappeared. Meanwhile a circus has come to town. Irmy and Paul are two of the artists. After a fight, Irmy leaves the circus in the middle of the night. Eventually she meets Kleinman, scared and alone. Written by
I can't help but wonder what everyone finds so confusing about this film. It doesn't take a tremendous amount of knowledge to enjoy this well crafted ode to (and let's face it: spoof of) German Expressionism: a little Nosferatu here, a dash of Caligari there, a couple of slightly less obvious flourishes (the "Sniffer" with a divine gift, the Circus, the mobs and the general atmosphere) and you've got all you need. Of course, this is the most basic level in the film (I won't dig into Philosophy and message in a commentary but by all means it's there and worth musing over) but it's already enough to justify seeing it.
The idea of the confusing "shadows and fog" of Expressionist cinema filtered through Allen's off-kilter character world view is exactly what makes the film so hysterical. The entire film is done in a beautiful black and white recalling the source material and the city's mob are all played perfectly deadpan... except for Allen who manages to bumble his way through obstacle after obstacle trying to at least get a grip on the situation. If this pile of nerves moving through a dark sordid city doesn't make you laugh, I don't know what to say.
The film DOES falter in some aspects however. Mia Farrow is passable as the necessary sympathetic female lead, but in the end her presence doesn't fit in with the rest of the film's ambiance and one would have rather seen more of femme Fatale Lily Tomlin. Likewise, John Malchovich's Clown (while obviously referential) sticks out like a sore thumb. It's a shame that Allen had to add these elements which end up detracting from the overall film, but one couldn't hold the film alone and Farrow manages to at least be a proper target to bounce lines.
In the end, a very strong film and one that entertains properly, but obviously not one made for the uninitiated. However, for those who're on the inside of the "plan" (and furthermore, on the inside of the philosophies) it's a tremendous bit of fun.
20 of 29 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?