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Shadows (1959)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  18 March 1961 (Denmark)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 6,431 users  
Reviews: 36 user | 58 critic

Cassavetes' jazz-scored improvisational film explores interracial friendships and relationships in Beat-Era (1950s) New York City.

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Title: Shadows (1959)

Shadows (1959) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Nominated for 3 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Carruthers ...
Ben
Lelia Goldoni ...
Hugh Hurd ...
Anthony Ray ...
Dennis Sallas ...
...
Tom (as Tom Allen)
David Pokitillow ...
Rupert Crosse ...
David Jones ...
Davey (as Davey Jones)
Pir Marini ...
Pir the Piano Player
Victoria Vargas ...
Jack Ackerman ...
Jack, Director of Dance Studio
Jacqueline Walcott ...
Cliff Carnell
Jay Crecco
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Storyline

Benny's a hipster, moving in and out of Manhattan's beat scene, aimless, maybe close to trouble. His sister Lelia, who looks less African-American than White, is vulnerable and about to fall in love. Hugh, their older brother, is a struggling singer whose agent, Rupert, may be the only person with faith in his talent. The story moves back and forth, like jazz, among the three of them and what seems at first to be separate lives. Lelia meets Tony, and lets herself hope this is true love. Then he meets Hugh and prejudice gives Tony an excuse to cut and run. Can family and friendship bring solace for her hurt, purpose for Benny, and belief in Hugh? Is life more than shadows? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

18 March 1961 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Sombras  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film won the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1968. See more »

Quotes

Girl at Party: The trouble with you is, you have a case of self-induced hysteria every time you hear the word 'existentialism'.
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Crazy Credits

"Presented by Jean Shepherd's Night People" See more »

Connections

References Appointment in Honduras (1953) See more »

Soundtracks

Beautiful
Written by Jack Ackerman, Hunt Stevens and Eleanor Winters
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Pioneering Approach
10 October 2010 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

No need to repeat what little plot there is.

In 1959, movie-making was a closed shop. Between the studios, the craft unions, and the distributors, the only films outside Hollywood were home movies. Add a restrictive Production Code to that shop, and you get a commercial product that's typically slick, entertaining, but all too predictable.

I remember being on a mid-western campus at the time and hearing about Shadows. An independent production gave me ideas that fortunately or unfortunately never materialized. But for many others, the idea took root and, most importantly, helped shake loose the Hollywood monopoly.

No, Shadows is far from a masterpiece by any standard. It is, however, a gutsy, pioneering effort that achieves its own brand of sensibility—it's certainly not slick; then too, it's more interesting than entertaining, and not at all predictable. In short, what's on Cassavetes's screen is largely in contrast to what we expected from feature films of the time.

Instead of conventional story or plot, there are several very loose narrative threads. Instead of prepared script, set, and cast, there are non-professionals and improvisation, though how much, I gather, is debatable. And in place of expected resolutions at movie's end, life simply continues much as it did before.

As a result, there's no expected moral or lesson to events. They simply happen as they happen, but within that framework, new possibilities open up, while the screen comes to look more like everyday experience than an entertainment medium. I gather the aim is to reveal truths at a new level left undisclosed by traditional narrative structure. Something like the 'truth of the moment as it's lived'.

This is certainly no place to attempt a concept like that. However, I can see how movie tradition with its emphasis on structure and artifice would override the momentary and the non-preconceived in favor of the integrity of the whole. So, it looks like Cassavetes not only helped establish the indie, but also aimed at a new way of looking at movies in general.

Anyway, I don't know how well he succeeds with Shadows. However, I do have a lasting image of New York City, that is, of the shabbily gaunt Ben Carruthers hunched down in his leather jacket, perhaps as protection against an uncaring world as he drifts aimlessly down the city street. I'm just sorry that Shadows didn't make it to my long ago campus.


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