Fog [2005]

No other Woody Allen film has ever been hustled into oblivion faster than this black-and-white mélange of Mittel-European nightmare, absurdist farce, and homage to German expressionism--sort of Woody Allen meets Franz Kafka in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, set to Kurt Weill's score for The Threepenny Opera. Yet the daft experiment is not without charm and, as the title suggests, oodles of atmosphere. In a murky, seriously deranged cityscape only a studio art department could create, a giant bald strangler (Michael Kirby) is going around killing people with piano wire. The authorities are powerless (though he stomps about freely, occasionally declaiming speeches), so vigilante posses start roving the streets. For some reason, they dragoon a noisy nebbish named Kleinman (Allen) to assist them. So Kleinman goes into the fog, kvetching, and meets Irmy (Mia Farrow), a circus sword swallower (no double-entendres, please) whose clown of a husband (John Malkovich) is two-timing her with the strongman's wife (Madonna). Add an "et cetera" here, because the big, mostly wasted cast also includes Kenneth Mars as the strongman, Donald Pleasence as a philosophical coroner, John Cusack as a student who mistakes Irmy for a prostitute, and Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, and Lily Tomlin as the real prostitutes in whose company she happens to be at the time. None of this adds up, and the whole thing moves and feels less like a film than one of Allen's oddball New Yorker sketches. Still, as the fever dream of an art-house addict, it has its moments. --Richard T. Jameson

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