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
The picture's closing credits declare: "the film you have just seen was an improvisation". See more »
When Tony takes Lelia back to her apartment, Ben, Dennis, and Tom are sitting around the table playing poker and trying to arranges some dates. All three bear the marks of a fight that won't take place until near the end of the movie. See more »
David's writing a new novel all about you, Ben.
Better not be any of that Beat Generation jazz like the last one.
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Cassavetes screened a finished version of Shadows in 1957 and 1958 that ran 78 minutes. Part of the original negative of this version was used for the 1959 version, which was completely reshot with new actors. In 2002, Prof. Ray Carney of Boston University discovered the only remaining 16mm copy of this earlier version. See more »
Shot on a minimal budget of $40,000 with a skeleton six person crew, SHADOWS offers an observation of the tensions and lives of three siblings in an African-American family in which two of the three siblings, Ben (Ben Carruthers) and Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), are light-skinned and able to pass for white. Cassavetes demanded that the actors retain their real names to reflect the actual conflicts within the group but saw the film as being concerned with human problems as opposed imply to racial ones. Cassavetes shot the film in ten minute takes and jagged editing, a reaction against 'seamless' Hollywood production values. Cassavetes main inspiration - at least in the cinematic style the film was shot - were the Italian neo-realists whilst also professing admiration for Welles' pioneering spirit. The use of amateurs and improvisation might resemble some of the Italian neo-realist directors, but with his bebop score by Charles Mingus ans Shafi Hadi, the film feels very different, very American, unlike anything made before really.
The song with the feathered girls, "I feel like a lolly-pop" (or something) feels like light years back to me, ancient history. But no matter how dated it might look, it still makes a delightful time capsule of late Fifties New York today. I think it's this is one of the first films made aspiring filmmakers realize they could shoot an independent film, without Hollywood, improvised and without a real budget. Seymour Cassel, who acted and was involved in SHADOWS, claims it was Jules Dassin's THE NAKED CITY (1948) that was the first and inspired them all, but I think this was the one that really opened the eyes of aspiring independent American filmmakers.
Camera Obscura --- 8/10
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