The Shadow Box (TV Movie 1980) Poster

(1980 TV Movie)

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postcefalu8 October 2008
Paul Newman's directional central piece (his fourth, after almost eight years of silence) is, by far, the best American film of the decade. Not only for its very controlled, moving, unusual tone and rhythm, nor for the exceptional actors and actresses, but mainly for the treatment of such a theme like this, the easiest to fall into a stupid tear jerker. "The shadow box" is like Naruse Mikio's "Midareru", the definitive proof that a great director (and Paul Newman is one of the best of his time) can make wonders with any argument, even with the most boring ones, the less "important", even if the plot is tedious and the ending predictable. A gem
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Shadow And Substance
writers_reign28 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As fine an actor as he was - and he was amongst the very top - Paul Newman was arguably a better director, perhaps because he was an actors director and could have probably extracted something resembling acting from even the most wooden - Laurence Harvey, John Gregson, Richard Todd et al. It's no surprise that he got a stunning performance out of his wife, Joanne Woodward, because he did so time and again - Rachel, Marigolds, Menagerie - but here he does the same with Valerie Harper playing a character a million miles away from 'Rhoda' in the shape of a wife in denial of her husband's terminal illness. Yes, this is an adaptation of a play but the author of the prize-winning play did his own adaptation and the result is as sensitive as the original play. It's not, of course, for the bubblegum Multiplex set but that can only be a good thing. A very fine film.
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Exteriorly a very Newmanish drama; in fact, a failure
Cristi_Ciopron21 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
SB may seem very Newmanesque; exteriorly, it is—another clone of the disturbing stage plays that were fashionable in the '50s and '60s—stageish, declamatory, rudimentary , sinister. Newman always confessed his fondness for such stage plays and for this trend; I haven't seen any of those on stage; on TV, they don't look well. Cheap philosophy, phony psychology, fake depths. In SB's case, I think that the play itself was bad. Several things can be enjoyed, and the movie is interesting; there are some performances that could be remarked (Mme Woodward, and also the poorer couple—these three actors are noteworthy).

Stylistically, the film is crap, rubbish, TV garbage—absolutely no art, no artistic means, no subtlety, no modulations—no skill or craft whatsoever—it's brutally bad and primitive and clumsy. No scene is well made. No effort whatsoever was made to transfer the play from the stage on the screen. And this is annoying because it comes from a man that showed an unusual skill with the first movie he ever directed ("Rachel …").

It looks like Newman was completely out of inspiration when he made this film. The absence of any art is conspicuous.

The movie is involuntarily (I assume) and uselessly sexy, because Mrs. Woodward doesn't have a bra and one can see her _pokey nipples for most of her scenes.

Very little,if any,is told by Newman through cinematic means;here he doesn't really uses the resources of his art.The film is sloppy and clumsy and it sounds fake. It's whole conception was phony, and this results in the film looking morbid and exploitative and melodramatic in the worst way …. Newman can't really be excused, because he is the author of one of the best American movies ever (" Rachel …");but is "Rachel …" was exquisitely crafted and minutely conceived and artistic throughout, " SB" is just sloppy and strident.

I have seen 5 of the 6 movies that Newman directed; Rachel, Rachel (1968) ,his very first one,is,as I have already stated, a delicious masterpiece, impressive and exquisitely made; The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972) is average—already not as good as the previous one;the psychological content is less well enunciated and delineated; The Glass Menagerie (1987) is very average; Harry & Son (1984) is average at best, and very unappealing,as if Newman was becoming Eastwood …;while The Shadow Box (1980) is mere slapdash. As a matter of fact, the psychological investigation is absent, is inexistent in this film.
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A staged play
David Vanholsbeeck28 June 2001
THE SHADOW BOX is a film with some very good actors (Plummer, Woodward)and directed by Paul Newman, about three terminally ill patients who spend their last days in an experimental retreat. Sounds corny? Well, it's not corny, but the biggest problem is that it's all too obvious that this is derived from a play. The actors do their best, but...well, they're just acting and not creating real-life characters. Paul Newman is a very good actor (understatement!), and I think he should stick to that. His direction is very sober, almost clinical and we don't get to care about these characters. And that's a real pity, given the premise. 6/10
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