2011 marks the 20th anniversary of Woody Allen’s SHADOWS AND FOG, meaning, among other things, that the prolific filmmaker has made 20 films since (actually, he’s made 21, but who’s counting?). In 1989 Allen made the much-loved CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, followed by the slightly less loved ALICE, and then SHADOWS AND FOG, which was, unfortunately, even less of a hit amongst audiences. The early 90s New York Times film critic Vincent Canby actually ended his review with a ridiculous “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.”
As part of the Tim Burton show at the MOMA (showing through April 26th), they are exhibiting a series of films called “Tim Burton and the Lurid Beauty of Monsters.” These are films that according to the MOMA staff have “… influenced, inspired, and intrigued Burton, and which reflect the motifs, themes, and sensibilities of his work.” Just scanning the list of monsters, mummies and evil villains, one of them caught my eye. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, a landmark German Expressionist film directed by Robert Wiene in 1920. One of my favorite early films, it’s a visual journey into a bold and hyper non-realistic world, with geometrical and striking high contrast sets. The backgrounds are often absurd and light and shadows are painted on walls and floors. It’s as if we’ve stepped into an insane but brilliant artist’s point of view. No wonder Burton was inspired by this film.