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Weekend Movies
Bar Harbor
First up, Shadows and Fog, a little-known Woody Allen film. kestrell ran across a reference to it as having been inspired by The Threepenny Opera, and looked it up. Seeing that it featured many of her favorite actors, she decided to pick it up. (Indeed, almost every role, no matter how small, is played by either someone famous, or a character actor who should be.)

I had vague memories of this film as being a commercial and critical bomb, but having seen it, I'm not sure it deserved that fate. It was from the period when Allen was starting to stretch beyond comedy, but people weren't yet willing to accept that from him. The film *does* have lots of funny bits, but it is *not* a comedy, and if evaluated *as* a comedy,would indeed be a failure.

It's filmed in black&white, and is a clear homage to German Expressionism. Fog pervades every exterior scene, and most shots are framed by architecture whose angles are not right. Silhouettes are heavily used. He also frequently sets up shots where someone reacts strongly to something offscreen, but which the camera does not reveal for a considerable time. The costumes, architecture, and set dressing all evoke Germany of the '30s, though the time and place are never definitively established.

Nor is the influence merely visual; one of the central plots is a direct riff on "M", albeit mixed with Franz Kafka. A deranged killer is on the loose, and a group of businessmen form a vigilante committee to catch him. Woody Allen is dragged into this committee, but no matter how often he asks, no one will tell him what his role in "the plan" *is*, they just browbeat him for not doing it well enough, then depart in ahuff, leaving him as clueless as ever.

The other major plot concerns a sword-swallower named Irmy (Mia Farrow) who runs *away* from the circus after a fight with her clown boyfriend (John Malkovich). She subsequently gets entangled with a brothel, the police, Allen's character, and the hunt for the killer.

Most of the surviving characters get a reasonably happy -- if slightly surreal -- ending. Kes and I both reacted similarly. "I'm not sure whether or not I *liked* it, but it certainly kep my interest, and I might even watch it again."

Our second feature for the day was The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, directed by Billy Wilder. A decent mystery, but lots more fun (often silly) character stuff, that I think was more the point.

The actors playing Sherlock and Watson were excellent, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the ever-impresive Christopher Lee in a significant supporting role as Mycroft Holmes. Sterling Holloway had a neat little scene as a gravedigger. Clive Revill's craggy face played a baddy (as he usually does), though, tragically, they didn't actually give him any english dialogue.

Much of the film deals in one way or another with sexuality. Watson is enthusiastically het, while Holmes remains equivocal. Various women try to seduce him, unsuccessfully. There is one scene where he talks about his past relationships with women, but in the context of the story, it's impossible to tell whether or not he's lying. I really must see more Billy Wilder; he always has such interesting takes on sexuality.


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