first film and one of the seminal works of the American independent
cinema. Two African-American brothers try to make it as jazz
musicians while their light-skinned sister struggles with
issues of "passing." An experiment in improvisational filmmaking.
This film is included in the National Film Registry. 1959 (87
m. B+W) Stars Ben Carruthers, Lelia Goldoni, and Hugh Hurd.
Selected Programing Notes
from the Beat Screening List
by Ray Carney
Cassavetess Shadows: Deconstruction or Evolution
by John Shaw
Shadows. This is a
great movie. Like it was made yesterday. Punk, beat in sensibility.
About young people struggling on the fringes.
Also the review that follows mine is right. A guy named Ray Carney
just wrote an amazing book about the movie that has incredible
behind the scenes details that no one ever knew before. Cassavetes
revealed them to Carney before he died in a Rosebud conversation.
Check out the book. It is titled Shadows and another by Carney
titled Cassavetes on Cassavetes along with the film. Also Carney
has a web site that you should check out with lots of other Cassavetes
I love this movie! And the books about it!!! You owe it to yourself
to own them. Carney's writing on film is worth more than a college
education. At least the one I got!
This intense, hysterical, loud, sweet and sour film was NOT an
IMPROVISATION despite the end title! Neither were Cassavetes
other films, in the classic sense of IMPROV. Improv was sparringly
used in the writing of the scripts, but Cassavetes was a WRITER
who knew what he was doing more than people give him credit for.
This is a major crime against one of the greatest artists of
the last 100 years (wha? no, seriously). To get the real scoop,
and an exhaustive, loving take on this important first film by
an American original, check out the BFI Film Series edition on
SHADOWS, which just came out. It breaks it down and builds it
back up, in a way you won't believe.
I can not believe this
film was made before A Bout de Souffle. An incredible
revelation and an amazing influence. - dt.jones
John Cassavetes' Shadows
is an improvosational film made in 1959, winner of the xxxxx at the
Venice Film Festival, and recently re-released to video. It offers
a compelling snapshot of Beat culture in NYC as it itersected with
racial tensions and subserviant position of women present even in
"hip" society during the early 60's. An African-American jazz singer
lives in a small NY flat with his deadbeat brother and lovely 20 year
old sister who are both either light-skinned and "passing" or half-siblings
to the singer. Their relationship is never clarified. The trio throw
desegregated cocktail parties which sometimes lead to explosive social
situations. While they do thier part for social justice, the ladies
dress nice and shop for husbands. The film was certainly made on a
shoestring and jumpy editing and sometimes self-conscious performances
show it. Ultimately, however, it is the painfully candid and personal
quality of the characters' stories which come through.
- Above review will probably be printed in The Austin Chronicle to
mark the video's re-release - K. VanScoy
just a note on the improvisational
nature of the film. i read from some book of jc and said the film
was actually re-made after its premiere. therefore the print we are
watching on video is almost totally a different film from the one
that was first released. once i have found out the source ill get
back to you. thanks for reading.
p.s. btw, a great site you got here!
Shadows is to cinema
what On the road is to literature.
un soplo de aire fresco para una persona de 23 aņos como yo que vive
en el aņo 2000
A good film. a little self-conscious,
yes, but you can sense the actors enjoying and playing off each other
in some scenes. love the look of the film and the streets. the sometimes
out-of-kilter camera work doesn't hurt, either.
Contrary to popular belief
this film only used improvisation during the rehearsal process, the
film itself, that is the version we see today was scripted from the
work done in rehearsal. Cassavetes left the meesage at the end, that
the film was improvised because he wanted the actors influence over
the script to be recognized. Furthermore, I would like to add that
the treatment of race in shadows is more progreesive than films we
It's very rare that an
independent film like Shadows dealt with issues portraying
African Americans in a non-strerotypical storyline. Cassavetes was
ahead of his time by showing this. M.I.P.
I recently viewed Shadows
and it the first Cassavetes film for me. I found it to be a revelation.
John seems to possess a sixth sense in capturing moments from an angle
that is fresh and inspiring.
Cassevetes remade the film
under the title Too Late Blues, this may be what you are referring
to when you say that Shadows was remade
From this his first film,
to Love Streams his last, John Cassavettes remains the singularly
most important voice in American independent cinema. - Noli.
This movie has many powerful
scenes. The grounding of the film is very natural. The characters
were showed depth in a believable manner.
Shadows is a film
about crossing borders, that between black and white, between the
inside and outside (not only) of society. The loosening connections
in itīs narrative and spatial structure as well as the impression
of the camera getting "too close" to the actors are, far from being
"mistakes", the very means by which Cassavetes accomplishes an intense
atmosphere and aesthetic coherence with his theme. Shadows
is a poetic jazz film, and the apparent lack of a story in itīs exposition
is part of itīs composition. The conflicts inherent in the cool, hanging
around scenes in the exposition of the film crystallize like musical
motives around a rhythmic centre. Shadows is great. I opened
my cinema with this one.
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