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Shadows (The Criterion Collection)

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

John Cassavetes' directorial debut revolves around an interracial romance between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light-skinned black woman living in New York City with her two brothers, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship crumbles when Tony meets Lelia's brother Hugh (Hugh Hurd), a talented dark-skinned jazz singer struggling to find work, and discovers the truth about Lelia s racial heritage. Shot on location in Manhattan with a cast and crew made up primarily of amateurs, Cassavetes' Shadows is a visionary work that is widely considered the forerunner of the American independent film movement.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Video interviews from 2004 with actress Lelia Goldoni and associate producer Seymour Cassel
Rare silent 16 mm footage of John Cassavetes and Burt Lane s acting workshop
Restoration demonstration
Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
Theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Gary Giddins and a reprinted essay by Cassavetes

Review

Arguably the founding work of the American independent cinema. --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Hugh Hurd, Lelia Goldoni, Anthony Ray
  • Directors: John Cassavetes
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2008
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000WOCPXY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,244 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
In constrast to the sanitized images of 1950s television and motion pictures, SHADOWS is like a breath of fresh air. It's independent filmmaking at its best. You'll find no silly "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" plots here. Instead, you have characters that respond and speak like regular people. This is in large part because Cassavetes allowed the actors to improvise their dialog. This is particularly true for the black characters in the film, because they aren't constrained by an outsider's view of them.
There are several stories in the film, but perhaps the most interesting is that of Lelia (played by Lelia Goldoni). Living in a Manhattan apartment with her two brothers, she's somewhat naive of the world. At a party she meets Tony and they soon hit it off. Just as quickly, things start to sour between them. If it already isn't bad enough, all hell breaks loose, when Tony is unable to conceal his shock when he discovers that the olive complexioned Lelia is actually black.
In a Hollywood film, this scenario would have been thrown under the rug or handled in a stiff and artificial manner (like ISLAND IN THE SUN). Fortunately, we get a much more interesting and realistic view of the situation. Granted some of the dialog might be a bit on the nose at times, but when the improv works, it works fabulously.
One of the best scenes in the film involves Lelia on a date. Without revealing too much, her dialog is a killer. John Sayles couldn't have written it any crisper.
As the whole, the cast is very good. All of the major players have the same first names as their respective characters. Rupert Crosse (who later received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Reivers) is very funny in this film.
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Format: DVD
"Shadows" possesses a special place for many would-be film historians as the film that launched "independent film". If nothing else, it launched one of the most chronically misunderstood -- but utterly essential -- series of American film. Lots of small things happen in "Shadows" despite its short running length: this is due in part to the fact that the film combines half its material from an earlier film of "improvisation" with a collection of more scripted scenes shot two years later with the same cast. What's stunning about the completed film is how GORGEOUSLY it presents human behavior in all its fascinating, modern messiness. Cassavetes was perhaps the first filmmaker to deliberately -- and successfully -- attempt the feat, which he subsequently honed as a skill in his future masterpieces.
Like the others in this Pioneer series, the DVD is merely adequate: it presents the picture and sound. As in the others, Ray Carney provides a short analytic essay in the insert that is useful to anyone not already familiar with Cassavetes' art. We're lucky to have this film available in any form. Highly recommended.
[Incidentally, whatever other Amazon reviewer it was that thinks they found a racist agenda to this film completely missed the boat. However, racism is faced by the characters and plays an overt role in the narrative, and significantly, comprises much of the oldest material in the film. The original project was for an unrealized film ABOUT racism; the material added later was not, and the complexities of the resulting combination make the film what it is.]
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By A Customer on February 2, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This is a great movie. Like it was made yeserday. 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 titled Shadows and another titled Cassavetes on Cassavetes along with the film. It's available here if you type in Cassavetes' name under books. Also Carney has a web site that you should check out with lots of other Cassavetes material.
I love this movie! And the books about it.
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By Cosmoetica on September 17, 2008
Format: DVD
In many ways, the filmic career of independent filmmaking legend John Cassavetes is the polar opposite of someone like Alfred Hitchcock, the consummate studio director. Where Hitchcock infamously treated his actors as cattle, Cassavetes sought to work with them improvisationally. Where every element in a Hitchcock shot is composed immaculately, Cassavetes cared less for the way a scene was figuratively composed than in how it felt, or what it conveyed, emotionally. Hitchcock's tales were always plot-first narratives, with the human element put in the background. Cassavetes put the human experience forefront in every one of his films. If some things did not make much sense logically, so be it.
One can see this even from his very first film, 1959's Shadows, filmed with a 16mm handheld camera, on a shoe string budget of about $40,000, in Manhattan, with Cassavetes' acting workshop repertory company, and touted as an improvisatory film. The story is rather simple, as it follows the lives of three black sibling Manhattanites- Benny (Ben Carruthers)- a trumpeter and no account, Hugh (Hugh Hurd)- a washed up singer, and Lelia (Lelia Goldoni)- the younger sister of both. The film's three main arcs deal with Hugh's failures as a nightclub crooner, and his friendship with his manager Rupert (Rupert Crosse); Benny's perambulations in an about Manhattan with his two no account pals; and Lelia's lovelife- first with a white boy Tony (Anthony Ray), who does not realize light-skinned Lelia's race, even after bedding her; then with stiff and proper Davey (Davey Jones), who may be a misogynist.
In the first arc, nothing much happens, except dark-skinned Hugh gets to pontificate on how degraded he feels to be singing in low class nightclubs, and opening shows for girly acts.
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