Shadows and Fog
Three major influences here: Franz Kafka’s The Trial, the music and lyrics of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, and German Expressionist directors of the 1920s and ‘30s, like Fritz Lang and Robert Wiene. I like Expressionism, I like the angry musicals of W&B, like The Threepenny Opera (Woody Allen uses much of the music from that here) and Mother Courage and Her Children, but I’ve never had much use for Kafka, and I don’t have any use for this silly film. I have to rate it as one of Woody’s worst. It is in black and white, as it had to be. It was filmed on the largest set ever built in New York. It was one of the most expensive films Woody ever made, and it was a major bomb. It deserved to be. He tells a story here of nothing making sense, of a man who doesn’t understand the accusations against him, in an absurd position. Pure Kafka. The trouble is (among many other troubles) that Woody has imported his cowardly, fast-talking, joking, whining schlemiel character pretty much intact from late-20th-century New York to 1930s Germany, and it just does not work. Does not work at all. Makes one groan, in fact. The one good thing I can say about it is that it looks terrific. It ought to, with all the money that was wasted on it. All I can think is that Woody suffered a year-long attack of hubris, thinking they’ll come see anything he makes. Turns out, they wouldn’t. I’m so glad he got over it.