Review: Shadows And Fog (1991)


Woody Allen could never kill anyone, he’d spend so much time debating whether or not to do it that the victim would get away every time!

Written By: Woody Allen
Directed By: Woody Allen

I have been told that this is the film that symbolizes the drop in quality of Woody Allen’s movies. I have only seen one of his movies made after this point, so I can’t accurately judge that statement. Nonetheless, the statement is there and I have to say I agree with the sentiment somewhat. Compared to works like Crimes And Misdemeanors, Hannah And Her Sisters and Annie Hall, Shadows And Fog is a definite drop off. It’s not a bad movie, it just happens to be a movie we have seen before, more than once.

While watching Shadows And Fog one can’t help but feel like they are walking over land already traversed. The ideas Allen is bringing forth and the musings on death, existence, life, sex, etc. are still profound, but we’ve heard it all before. There are little snippets of every conversation that you can pick out and associate with a previous Allen movie. Shadows And Fog lacks any originality when it comes to themes discussed and areas covered.

In that case the saving grace must be Allen’s comedic wit, right? It is and it isn’t, because Shadows And Fog is funny, but once again it feels like we’ve been there before. Line like “he mostly strangles” are funny, the entire movie is funny for that matter, but we’ve been there and done that. Yes, Shadows And Fog brings out laughter in the audience, but it’s the same type of humor that has been found in Allen’s previous works, once again almost to a T.

The two Allen standards have fallen to the wayside, but they were more than enough to prop up Shadows And Fog as a decent movie. What, if anything, elevates it to a good movie? Atmosphere and the weird netherworld Allen has created for the film. Time doesn’t seem to exist in Shadows And Fog, Victorian sensibilities are firmly entwined with 1950’s morality, 1970’s introspection and technology from the 1920’s. I loved the world that Allen created, it was a joy to take in this world that has never actually existed. The black and white cinematography as well as the use of, ahem, shadows and fog helped this new world. But, more than anything the movie was elevated by the way Allen employed his camera. The camera floats through scenes and around people, it highlights the netherworld aspect of the movie and was a nice thematic and narrative tie-in from Allen.

In a movie bereft of originality the camera was truly original for Allen and that is what elevates Shadows And Fog from merely a decent movie to a good movie. There are certainly better Allen movies out there, and Shadows And Fog has the feel of well worn shoes. But, Allen manages to go to a few unique places and for that alone it is worth a watch.




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