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
"Shadows and Fog" is Woody Allen's tribute to German Expressionism, and it's very interesting, often funny, and at times downright strange. He gives no indication of the setting or time, and as is often true with Allen, there's a serious undertone. His nebishy character, Kleinman, is woken up in the middle of the night in his home for reasons having to do with a serial killer at large. Poor Kleinman doesn't know exactly what he has to do with anything, but as he puts it, everything seems to know what he's supposed to be doing but him. Across town, Mia Farrow is the circus performer Irmy, who finds out her boyfriend (John Malkovich) is cheating on her, so she leaves him. She winds up in a brothel with some real characters played by Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates, and Jodie Foster. A client (John Cusack) declares himself in love with Mia and offers her money to sleep with him. When it gets up to $700, she accepts. Later she meets Kleinman and sends him to the church to donate all but $50. The priest is impressed, and the police cross Kleinman's name off the list of suspects. Then they meet a beggar, and she sends Kleinman back for half the money. Kleinman's name goes back on the list of suspects.
Yes, it's an odd but fascinating film. The atmosphere is bizarre, very German - dark, bleak, and foggy, with a scary serial killer out of "M." Big stars float in and out of the film, like Madonna, some with tiny roles. The funniest scene is when Kleinman tries to hide out at his ex-girlfriend's (Julie Kavner) who calls him every name in the book and then tries to turn him in.
Kleinman is an innocent man caught in confusing circumstances and times, not sure which side he should be on - there are two factions trying to catch this killer, and both attempt to recruit him - and all the poor guy wants is a promotion at his job. Though his reactions are often amusing, imagine being awoken by the police in the middle of the night and having no idea what it's about. It's happened, though, as it happens in the film. As Kleinman wanders the streets, unsure of where he's going, we can relate.
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