This page only contains excerpts and selected passages from Ray Carney's writing about Shadows. To obtain the complete text as well as the complete texts of many pieces about Cassavetes that are not included on the web site, click here.

Excerpts from Ray Carney's Shadows
Non-ideological Understanding
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I feel that people are ultimately individuals and it's only when they are trained to fit into a sociological pattern that is convenient to someone that they begin to blame their conditions [on things outside themselves]. All my pictures are … about individuals. That's the only thing I believe in … Groups can go fuck themselves. All of them. You know, a Black to me is a Black. And when he's a person, he's a person. And when a Puerto Rican is a "Puerto Rican" or a "Hispanic" – I don't care what title [they put] on – to me there's a name for each person. I think it's marvelous to have a name. And a woman is not a "woman." It's either Gena or my mother or some person.

Insofar as Cassavetes defines experience in terms of internal states, his films resist "ideological" or "sociological" analysis, which invariably define characters' relations to the world in terms of external systems of power and dominance. To the ideological critic, experience becomes its outsides; while Cassavetes defines it in terms of its insides – characters' insecurities, needs for approval, fears, desires to be independent. In Cassavetes' imaginative universe, the deepest, most important aspects of his figures' identities completely elude external systems of scrutiny and control. That is why Cassavetes' narratives are so indifferent to social, economic or political concerns. If we ask how the siblings in Shadows support themselves or how they can afford the furniture in Lelia's bedroom, we are asking the wrong questions. The allusions to Ben's unemployment or Hugh's underemployment exist to create emotional issues they must deal with, not financial ones. The problems the characters undergo do not originate in economic, political or social systems, but from their unacknowledged needs and desires.

Cassavetes' understanding of life was color-blind, class-blind and individualistic. Shadows' racial theme might seem flatly to contradict this line of argumentation, but in fact Cassavetes completely rejected any interpretation of Shadows that viewed the film in terms of race relations, precisely because it located Ben's, Hugh's or Lelia's problems outside themselves. In his own words, the film was not about racial but "human problems." Of course, it's not necessary to take his word for it; Shadows is its own best guide to how it should be understood. And what the film makes abundantly clear is that although Ben and Lelia would undoubtedly blame their problems on racism or others, their only real problems are themselves. Their racial confusions pale in comparison with (and in fact are only as a kind of metaphor for) emotional confusions that have nothing to do with race.

Shadows, Published by the British Film Institute (London, England)

Distributed in America by the University of California Press at Berkeley

ISBN: 0-85170-835-8

88 pages; thirty illustrations

This page only contains excerpts and selected passages from Ray Carney's writing about Shadows. To obtain the complete text as well as the complete texts of many pieces about Cassavetes that are not included on the web site, click here.

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Text Copyright 2003 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.