Cassavetes' first independent feature depicts the struggle of three African-American siblings to survive in the mean streets of Manhattan. Hugh, a would-be jazz musician, looks after younger siblings Ben and Leila, who are... more » light-skinned enough to pass for white. This seems to give them an advantage and more opportunities while Hugh must struggle by playing the trumpet in dive bars and strip joints. Shadows was made from a script entirely improvised by the cast, and heralded a vital new era in independent filmmaking. Starring: Hugh Hurd, Leila Goldoni, Ben Carruthers.« less
"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. Hugh Hurd (father of Michelle Hurd on Showtime's "Leap Years") is very believable as a frustrated vocalist who is also the caring older brother of Lelia. Also look out for Lynn Hamilton (perhaps best known for her recurring role on "Sanford & Son") in a small role.The film is raw, but like sushi there is much to savour here. Just sit back, relax and pop this movie into your machine. A little patience will go a long way with this gem. Check it out."
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Be patient with "Shadows"--it will pay off.
Ibochild | 03/07/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Cassavetes in again with another winner! Granted, a bit of patience is required to appreciate his super-realistic style, but by the end you will feel as though you are a part of this family, and this time in our history, regardless of what race you belong to. The scenes with the younger brother and his friends are so intimate and light-hearted you will wish you had friends like his. Cassavetes made this one with his own production company, which is something wonderful in a world (Hollywood) where selling out is the rule. A beautifully touching story of romance and family."
"Cassavetes' work has always not gone down the genre-driven, formulaic Hollywood studio system path. Rather, and Shadows is a fine example, he is ever asking the audience questions instead of providing cheap answers. The performances of the players are nothing short of brilliant for nonprofessional actors as are the New York locations. This is a bittersweet comedy which was supposed to be more of a comment on racism but later cutting and reshooting shaped the picture into more of a study on what drives us all: Emotion; instinct; stuff we don't even know about ourselves. I fell in love instantly with the Lelia character, played by Lelia Goldoni."