The Calm Before the Storm*

 

- Throughout that spring [1990], [Woody] began to contemplating his "options" [regarding his life with Mia]. [7]

 

- In 1991 he began writing a screenplay about two couples whose marriages have encountered a midlife crisis. One character is sleeping with his aerobics instructor half his age and another is in danger of being seduced by one of his students, and everyone’s life is in chaos. Woody somehow managed to convince Mia that Husbands and Wives was fictional. [7]

 

- Soon-Yi never took much notice of Woody growing up. Woody even said, “She was someone who never liked me. I didn’t speak to her.” After Satch was born, she suddenly began asking him questions about basketball or her homework. A friend of the family once said, “growing up in a movie’s star family definitely appealed to Soon-Yi. She wanted to be part of the glamor.” [7]

 

- She must have sensed that [Woody] was drifting away – out of Mia’s life – and that meant out of her own as well. Slowly, Soon-Yi began to register on Woody. [7]

 

- They began going to Knicks games together. During one evening in January 1990, one photographer for the National, a sport publication, snapped three shots of Woody holding Soon-Yi’s hand. After half time he spotted them still holding hands and snapped three more. The publication didn’t publish the photos and they went onto the archive for the next two years. [7]

 

- Cindy Adams of the New York Post caught wind from a fan a few weeks later of more affection the two were exhibiting at the game and called Woody’s production office. Adams ran the story but left out Soon-Yi’s name. Mia on the other hand confronted Woody on the subject. Woody dismissed the whole story. Mia warned, “she has a crush on you and she might misinterpret that.” [7]

 

-According to the story Soon-Yi told Mia after she discovered the polaroids, Woody and her became intimate in 1990. Under oath, Woody says it happened at the end of 1991. [7]

 

- Around this time, on December 17, 1991, the Surrogate Court ruled Mia and Woody could co-adopt Moses and Dylan with Woody. This was a unique exception for a New York court since Mia and Woody were not officially married. [7]

 

-But as news of their relationship came out, this decision could be reversed if it could be proven it took place before Dec. 17, 1991. [7]

 

- A month after the discovery of the affair, he failed to appear the least bit repentant and seemed to be treating the incident as an ordinary story about the difficulties of monogamy. He had cheated; he had gotten caught. That Woody could be selfish and self-absorbed should come as no surprise to Mia, who had known him for 12 years. Still, if she couldn’t get him to feel remorse, she at least wanted him to acknowledge – and apologize for – his treachery. [7]

- Began shooting November 19, 1990. Completed shooting February 15, 1991. [3]

- Released in United States Spring March 20, 1992 [3]

- Runtime: 85 min

-Production Company: Orion Pictures Corporation

-Distributor: Orion Pictures Corporation

-Rated PG-13

- Budget: $14,000,000 (estimated)

-Gross: $2,735,731 (USA) [1]

- Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1

- “Part of the metaphor of the film [is] that once you get out in the night, there is a sense that civilization is gone…the city is just a superimposed man-made convention and the real thing that you’re living on is a planet. It’s a wild thing in nature. And all the civilization that protects you and enables you to lie to yourself about life is all man-made and superimposed.” –Woody Allen [6]

 

- The European art cinema has typically provided the basic source of inspiration for Woody Allen's "serious" films, and Shadows and Fog (1992) is no exception. While some of his older films have one obvious model--for example, Stardust Memories (1980) is clearly an homage to Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963) and Interiors (1978) is haunted by the spirit of Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers (1972)--Shadows and Fog is a virtual collage of film references. [2]

 

- Based on a one-act comedy play called "Death", published in Woody Allen's "Without Feathers" (1972), the play and movie are themselves a pastiche of Franz Kafka's work in general, and of his novel "The Trial" in particular. [1]

 

- The most noteworthy aspect of the film is undoubtedly the atmospheric black and white cinematography by the late Carlo Di Palma (1925-2004). Before moving to Hollywood, Di Palma had worked with directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci and Michelangelo Antonioni. He had not made a film in black and white since the Sixties, when it was still relatively common, particularly in Italy. [3]

 

- In this film, Allen and Di Palma, together with the production designer Santo Loquasto, deliberately evoke the atmosphere of German Expressionism through the extensive use of fog and low-key lighting. Especially striking is the way Di Palma often creates silhouette effects by backlighting subjects through the fog. In purely pictorial terms, it's one of the director's most accomplished films to date.  [3]

 

-There are some Woody Allen movies so objectively great that to have a negative opinion of them is just, quite simply, wrong and inaccurate. Shadows and Fog is not one of those movies. Despite my enchantment, I’m aware of the dozens of reasons why you might justifiably shrug it off. It’s familiar, disjointed, uneven, and directionless... but also funny, smart, and exciting. I’d rank it alongside Another Woman as my most pleasant surprise yet. [2]

"Shadows and Fog" Screening Companion

The End of Orion Pictures

 

-This was Woody Allen's final film for the now-defunct Orion Pictures, most of whose founders had been associated with Allen's movies since his United Artists days. [1]

 

- Woody Allen screened the film with Orion Pictures president Eric Pleskow. Allen said “he looked like he’d been hit with a mallet after he saw it.” Pleskow was apparently alarmed at the film’s aggressive box-office unfriendliness. [2]

- The trouble with Orion, analysts theorized, was a lack of financial resources for marketing their films aggressively. Other blamed Krim and his associates for gravitating towards weak stories that were difficult to sell in the first place and failing to sell them well. [7]

 

- In April 1991, Kluge, who still owned the bulk of the company, removed Orion's two top executives, including his friend Arthur B. Krim, and appointed younger executives from within the company to try to turn the studio around. [4]

 

-One month later, Orion reported a loss of $48 million in its last year of operation, ceased making interest payments on its debts, and entered negotiations with its unhappy bondholders. As Orion disclosed that legal but questionable accounting practices had hidden the full extent of its losses for much of its existence, angry shareholders launched a series of lawsuits. [4]

 

-By November 1991, Orion's losses had continued to mount, and its debt had reached $690 million. Although the company was trying desperately to reach an agreement with its creditors that would allow it to release films it had finished, talks broke down early the next month. [4]

 

- In the case of Shadows and Fog, the domestic release was delayed because of Orion Pictures' financial problems. Since overseas distribution rights were held by Columbia Pictures, it was actually released in Europe first. [3]

 

-Orion did produce many hits during its life. Amadeus, Platoon, Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs all won Best Picture at the Oscars. Woody’s own Hannah and Her Sisters almost won as well.

 

-Woody followed Arthur Krim to Orion from UA in 1981 and continued making history with his “Script Approval-free / right-to-Final Cut” agreement. Even to this day, that deal is almost exclusively unique to Woody Allen.

 

- As the Orion ship began to sink, many criticized Woody for not standing by his man and help save Orion by making films more like his commercial successful films in the 1970s. [7]

 

- By the time Orion filed for Chapter 11 (finally coming out of it in 1996), Woody had already jumped ship to TriStar, which along with Columbia, had been acquired by Sony. [7]

The "Monster" Set

 

- Filmed on a 26,000-square-foot set at Kaufman-Astoria studios, it holds the distinction of being the biggest set ever built in New York. [1]

 

- “When the set was finished,” Allen laughs, “we had no idea if after a week of shooting we would have used up the whole set and think, ‘Oh god, we need ten sets like this.’” –Woody Allen [6]

 

- The large-scale sets were quite expensive, so most of the set was used again and again, since they could be disguised by the dense fog of the scenes. [1]

 

-To create the mammoth set, the film designers first began with a model. But when the director decided that the model’s design wasn’t workable, the crew began the unorthodox – and expensive – process of building full-scale sets as they went along. [5]

 

-Originally planned to create a spare, minimalist set, with structures that only suggested windows and doors, Allen soon decided that the abstract look only compromised the ambiance of the film. Instead, he chose to evoke a look that was darker, more brooding – and much more elaborate. [5]

 

-For architectural inspiration, the set designers drew on everything from popular culture to personal memories. Some of the most powerful influences came from early 20th century Eastern Europe, images of vintage Paris by Eugene Atget and classic horror films from Hollywood’s heyday. [5]

Trivia

 

- At $19 million, this was Woody Allen's most expensive film to date. [1] (and one his shortest)

 

- This movie came out in the very end of 1991 and didn’t make it into wide release until 1992, which is why it’s often listed as a 1992 movie. [2]

 

- References include: The Doctor's conversation with the Murderer (a stand-in for Death), the subplot of marital strife in a circus, and the exploration of magic and illusion specifically recall Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) and The Magician (1958), respectively. German cinema of the Weimar era, particularly F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), G. W. Pabst's The Joyless Street (1925) and Pandora's Box (1929), and Fritz Lang's M (1931) seem likely influences as well. At the same time, the basic situation of Kleinman's character is clearly reminiscent of Franz Kafka's novel The Trial, and the soundtrack uses several Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill songs.  [3]

[Editor's Note: This is a web site that celebrates the art of Woody Allen. Although at times we mention aspects of his social life, we try and keep it to a minimum. The majority of critics would probably agree that a person's social/home life has an effect on one's work. As we move into Woody's infamous period of his life which most mainstream audiences only know him by, it would be foolish to completely ignore this time of his life. Our goal is to present a well-rounded and judge-free account of these turbulent times in Woody Allen's life.]

- Although billed on the poster, Fred Gwynne only gets one line. Similarly, Kate Nelligan whose name also appears on the poster - only appears in long shot in one scene, shouting from an upstairs window. [1]

 

 -The film is filled with stars with few spoken lines. The cast includes: John Malkovich, Madonna, Lily Tomlin, John Cusack, Donald Pleasence, Kathy Bates and Jodie Foster.

 

 - “We just think, ‘Who would be good for the part?’ and when we’ve decided who will be best, that’s the person we try and get. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re completely unknown or very famous.” –Woody Allen [6]

 

 - [Minor Spoiler] Several reviews say that the film’s serial killer is actually Death personified. [2]

 

-Just before shooting Shadows and Fog, Woody starred in Scenes from a Mall, a Disney production with Bette Midler. Soon-Yi worked on the set as an extra. [7]

Critical Reception

 

- Shadows and Fog is a movie that my limited critical capacities tell me that I should hate. Partly because so many of the people with functioning, fully-developed critical capacities do hate it. It scored a dismal 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, made it onto Gene Siskel’s Worst of 1992 list, and inspired Owen Gliebermanto suggest that Woody Allen had lost his touch. Yet, while I acknowledge the accuracy of many of their criticisms, the truth is that almost none of the film’s so-called faults bothered me. The actual viewing experience was immensely funny and entertaining — there isn’t a single thing I would’ve changed. [2]

 

-In addition to the alleged gimmickry, there are a few other common criticisms, two of which are exemplified in the scene that follows. The first criticism — and this is one that I’ve made myself many times in other reviews — is that the movie is rife with self-plagiarism...One final major criticism is that the film in all over the place, tonally. It aims to be darkly funny in some moments, overtly goofy in others, purely absurd in others, romantic in others, and occasionally even genuinely frightening. This is true — however, each of the movie’s schizophrenic moods are enjoyable. It is funny when it wants to be, and it really is romantic, frightening and absurd at times. If it doesn’t cohere as a whole, it’s none the less entertaining as a result. [2]

 

-  Jack Kroll for Newsweek wrote: “Shadows and Fog is Woody Allen's first mystery movie. The mystery: what caused this total breakdown of a unique artist?”

 

-Stanley Kauffmann called the picture "the flip side of creative freedom," an example of "the worst that can happen when a good filmmaker (which Allen has become) gets his unsupervised way." [7]

 

- Vincent Canby of the New York Times, praised the film precisely for its unpredictable shifts in tone and as its "brazen, irrepressible pastiche of references." [3] [Canby was one of the few major critics that praised Shadow and Fog]

 

- Vincent Canby also wrote in his review for The New York Times: "A note of caution: Shadows and Fog operates on its own wavelength. It is different. It should not be anticipated in the manner of other Allen films. It's unpredictable, with its own tone and rhythm, even though, like all of the director's work, it's a mixture of the sincere, the sardonic and the classically sappy. A vigilante questions Kleinman: "Are  you a coward or a worm or a yellow-belly?" "No," says Kleinman, "but keep going." [4]

 

- Indeed, the film's quirky sensibility, luminous cinematography and astonishing collection of star cameos suggest that while Shadows and Fog will probably never be rated as one of Woody Allen's major works, it is certainly more worthy of attention than it has been given so far. [3]

 

- 52% Rotten Tomatoes rating

[1] - www.imdb.com

[2] - www.EveryWoodyAllenMovie.com

[3] - Turner Movie Classics

[4] - Wikipedia

[5] – DVD Insert

[6] – Woody on Woody In Conversation with Stig Bjorkman

[7] – The Unruly Life of Woody Allen by Marion Meade