Shadows and Fog

Movie Review #798: ‘Shadows and Fog’ might have such a title because while all the laughs seem to be there, they’re also pretty obscured.

By Alexander Diminiano

Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rated PG-13 (contains mild violence, suggestive dialogue)
85 minutes

I’ve seen some great movies from Woody Allen. I’ve seen some pretty lackluster stuff from him. Examples: “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?”, “Another Woman”, “To Rome with Love”, “Scoop”, and the movie I happen to be writing about, “Shadows and Fog”.  But I’ve never seen anything truly horrendous from the director.  Even his worst movies seem to have some redeeming qualities.  I could go on and on about how “To Rome with Love” is trash, but it also features a treasure that we just can’t discount: the appearance of Allen himself, and his rapid-fire delivery of one-liners.

“Shadows and Fog” has some good stuff. Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera is nodded to here, with the inclusion of its “Cannon Song”. By that, I was impressed. However, the movie offers only one surprise, and that is that Madonna can actually act.  She’s showed that to us maybe three times total in her career, at least by this critic’s count.  She’s as Oscar-worthy here as she was in “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Evita”; it boggles my mind that she hasn’t been nominated for any of the three films.  But I’m not reviewing Madonna the actress.  I’m reviewing “Shadows and Fog” the film.  And that film bears no surprises.  Except for the one I’ve already mentioned.

The last ten minutes of “Shadows and Fog” were a curious display of camera tricks.  A magic show is used to solve the movie.  Which is interesting, visually, but that’s not the point, damn it.  The point is, this is a murder mystery (told as a black comedy) and it’s using the advantage of magic tricks to wrap up the movie.  Seriously, what the hell went wrong in Woody Allen’s mind for him to get this lazy?  Nothing here is even funny.  And you can tell it’s supposed to be.  You know how Woody kind of stutters when he’s telling a joke?  That’s usually how timing works in his favor, but with all the stuttering he does here, he doesn’t make us laugh once.  Oh wait there was that single one-liner at the end.  I hardly remember even laughing at that one, though.

“Shadows and Fog” suffers critically from its lazy script.  It seems to me like the ’90s was a time where Woody Allen was looking to Hollywood for ideas, rather than to himself.  The story in “Shadows and Fog” is an overused crime flick story.  It’s so obviously influenced by Hollywood that the black-and-white seems odd, and any claims of this being an homage to Ingmar Bergman (yes, another) seem false.  Funny that the one thing this didn’t do that would’ve made it 100% Hollywood was make money.  “Shadows and Fog” made around $2 million on its $14 million budget.  Granted, I know Woody Allen doesn’t exactly care if people actually see his films, but people do, in fact, see his movies, and there’s a reason the revenue wasn’t any higher. ✴


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