Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - SHADOWS AND FOG on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Twilight Time - SHADOWS AND FOG on Blu-ray

SHADOWS AND FOG (1991; Woody Allen)
When a director's career spans almost fifty years and more than fifty films, it should be expected that everything isn't going to be a masterpiece. My hats off to Woody for cranking out a movie or so a year for so long. I cannot imagine that is any easy feat, especially when the guy is now nearing just passed eighty years old.  That said, his level of quality has dipped in terms of consistency over the past decade or so. I find myself occasionally longing for the Woody of twenty to twenty-five years ago. What's nice about a filmography as long as his is that I've not bothered to see everything so it allows me to look in on his older work when I become tired of his present day stuff. Between two really great films - CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS in 1989 and HUSBANDS AND WIVES in 1992 - Woody made a couple less popular entries. ALICE came out in 1990 and I've always found it very problematic and not enjoyable, whereas SHADOWS AND FOG was one that I had never given a solid viewing of before now. The movie itself is sort of a mixed bag, but not at all worthy of being completely overlooked by Woody fans. I feel it has dropped out of the conversation as far as his 90s work goes and it is at least worth a revisit for those that might have written it off. Woody plays a familiar nebbish-y fella known only as Kleinman. His village has been besieged by a strangler who roams the streets at night, murdering innocent townsfolk. Woody is of course humorously terrified of said strangler and that always makes for good comedy. There's more drama and thriller-y aspects here though as well and that is the primary genre mix of the movie. The fact that Woody was inspired by German expressionist filmmakers like Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau for SHADOWS makes for a sumptuous film nerdy homage. The influences don't end there though. There seems to be some Fellini in the mix as well in a subplot with circus performers. The cast of this one surprised me as I had only ever thought of it a yet another Woody and Mia vehicle. But nay, there are many more high-level performers here including John Malkovich, Donald Pleasance (who looks great in B&W), Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates, John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Wallace Shawn, Kurtwood Smith and David Ogden Stiers and even Madonna. That's one thing I do enjoy about going back to films from the 1990s is that a cast like this can really make you keep saying, "Oh hey, he/she is in this?!" and it's kind of an engaging and fun thing to watch play out.
About twenty minutes into this 1992 Woody Allen film, there is shot very very similar to a shot in Quentin Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS. It's that spinning camera around the center of a table as a bunch of characters talk. In RESERVOIR DOGS, it's a bunch of criminals shooting the breeze over breakfast. In SHADOWS, it's a bunch of prostitutes (and their guest) chatting about men, sex and love. I'm sure I've seen it in other movies, but I tie it closely to RESERVOIR DOGS. That was one of those films I saw at a very formative time, when I was paying wise-eyed attention to stylistic choices in everything I was watching. I'm not saying there is any theft involved at all between SHADOWS and RESERVOIR, but I think it's intriguing that both films came out in 1992 (though it looks like SHADOWS may have gotten a limited release in late '91) and have a shot like that. I was quite enamored of Jim Jarmusch's long, static takes in his excellent films STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DOWN BY LAW. Both those movies were shot in black and white and I loved that about them. For some odd reason though, despite my love of that kind of cinematography, I never ended up watching SHADOWS AND FOG in its entirety. I'm glad I waited as this Twilight Time Blu-ray is quite lovely. What a gorgeous movie it is. Especially on the new Twilight Time Blu-ray, it really sparkles. Carlo Di Palma is an artiste of the highest order and a good man to rival Gordon Willis' amazing work on MANHATTAN. While SHADOWS is not nearly on the level of MANHATTAN as a movie, it is still quite delightful to look at for sure. 
Special Features on this disc include and isolated score track and the original theatrical trailer. 
SHADOWS AND FOG can be purchased direct from Twilight Time's website:
http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/shadows-and-fog/



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