12 July 2010

Woody Allen: Day Sixteen

Shadows and Fog features one of Woody Allen's most impressive casts. Joining Woody Allen and regular performers Mia Farrow and Julie Kavner are Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, John Malkovich, Lily Tomlin, John Cusack and Madonna. Unfortunately with the terrific cast Shadows and Fog does not really get off the ground and wanders around aimlessly, much like the main character.

An unnamed town is being terrorized by a serial stranger. Kleinman (Allen) is awakened by a vigilante mob that is wandering the town at night to find the killer. A group of circus performers are staying on the outskirts of town and sword swallower Irmy (Farrow) gets into an argument with her clown boyfriend (Malkovich) and ends up leaving him. Irmy meets a prostitute (Tomlin) on the street and is invited back to the brothel, where the other whores (played by Bates and Foster) are waiting for the night to begin. Kleinman meets Irmy after the brothel is raided and she finds herself at the police station. The two wander together for most of the night. They both run into strangers and acquaintances while news of the strangler continues to strike fear into the mob.

Shadows and Fog seems to want to borrow too much from other genres. The dialogue seems ill-suited to the events of the film. Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster and Lily Tomlin are the absolute highlights of an otherwise disappointing film.

After the disappointment of Shadows and Fog Woody Allen gives us Husbands & Wives, a fantastic film about the emotional and marital troubles of two couples. It is also the last Woody Allen film to star Mia Farrow. The two couples are played by Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis. Judy Davis is superb as a fragile and emotionally disturbed wife and she was rewarded with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress (losing to Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny). The film exists as a pseudo-documentary with the main characters discussing their relationships with an off screen interviewer.

Gabe (Allen) and Judy (Farrow) believe they are happily married. Their marriage begins to unravel when their best friends, Jack (Pollack) and Sally (Davis), announce that they are separating. Gabe is shocked and Judy becomes very depressed at the news. Sally soon becomes distraught when she learns that Jack has moved in with a younger woman (Lysette Anthony) and Judy decides to set her up with her colleague Michael (Liam Neeson). The problem is that Judy harbours secret desires for Michael. Gabe, a college professor, begins a friendship with a young student (Juliette Lewis) that borders on inappropriate.

Husbands & Wives is infamous for being released around the time that Woody Allen and Mia Farrow ended their relationship. The film is full of honest emotion and fantastic performances. If Jack Palance really read the wrong name at the Oscars in 1993 I can only assume that Judy Davis' name would have been on the card!

Next up: Manhattan Murder Mystery.

My list:
1. Hannah and Her Sisters
2. Manhattan
3. Annie Hall
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors
5. Radio Days
6. Husbands & Wives
7. Another Woman
8. The Purple Rose of Cairo
9. Broadway Danny Rose
10. Love and Death
11. Interiors
12. Sleeper
13. Zelig
14. Stardust Memories
15. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)
16. Take the Money and Run
17. Oediupus Wrecks from New York Stories
18. Bananas
19. What's Up, Tiger Lily?
20. Alice
21. Shadows and Fog
22. September
23. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy

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