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Shadows (The John Cassavetes Collection) (DVD & Blu-ray) 
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The John Cassavetes Collection
SHADOWS (DVD and Blu-ray)
A film by John Cassavetes
Set amongst the lively milieu of artists and jazz musicians in bohemian 1950s New York, John Cassavetes' directorial debut follows the doomed relationship between a young mixed-race woman Lelia (Lelia Goldoni) and Tony (Anthomy Ray), a white man who betrays his prejudice when he meets Lelia's brother, a struggling jazz singer.
Shot on location with a cast and crew largely made up of amateurs and featuring a swinging, improvised score by Charles Mingus and Shafi Hadi, Shadows gave birth to a radical new film language grounded in authenticity, and is widely considered the first truly independent American film.
- Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
- Audio commentary with Cassavetes collaborator Seymour Cassel and film critic Tom Charity
- Falk on Cassavetes: the early years (DVD only, 13 mins)
- 16mm footage of John Cassavetes and Burt Lane's acting workshop (DVD only, 4 mins)
- Theatrical trailer (DVD only, 4 mins)
- Fully illustrated booklet featuring new essays and notes from Michael Atkinson, Brian Morton and Tom Charity
US | 1959 | black & white | English language, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | 82 minutes | Original aspect ratio 1.33:1
Disc 1: BD25 | 1080p | 24fps | PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit)
Disc 2: DVD9 | PAL | Dolby Digital mono audio (320kbps)
Region 2 PAL DVD
Region B Blu-ray
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Top Customer Reviews
Filmaking at its raw best , amazing shots of New york , great story , totally current todays enviroment , a must watch.
The film itself has been restored as much as possible and of course being in black and white and with smoking folk all over the place now seems rather out of date, a marvellous opportunity to see how Hollywood and all its clichés were turned on their heads by this amazing rebel and inspirator.
My order arrived promptly, well packed and was a delight to view.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.]
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.
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. He dreams of making it big in New York, or even Paris, but one can tell he is the type of man who will continue deluding himself of his meager skill, for the one time we actually get to hear him sing, he shows he's a marginal talent, at best. That Rupert keeps encouraging him gives us glimpses into how destructive friendships work. But, this is the least important of the three arcs.... While this film is better overall than, say, Martin Scorsese's first film, a decade later, Who's That Knocking At My Door?- another tale of failed romance and frustrated New Yorkers, it has none of the brilliant moments- acting-wise nor cinematographically- that that film has. It also is not naturalistic, for naturalism in art is a very difficult thing to achieve, especially in film, although the 1950s era Manhattan exteriors, at ground level, is a gem to relive. While Shadows may, indeed, be an important film in regards to the history of the independent film circuit, it certainly is nowhere near a great film. Parts of it are preachy, poorly acted, scenes end willy-nilly, almost like blackout sketches, and sometimes are cut off seemingly in the middle. All in all it's a very sloppy job- especially the atrocious jazz score that is often out of synch with the rest of the film, as Cassavetes proved that as a director, at least in his first film, he was a good actor. The only reason for anyone to see Shadows is because Cassavetes ultimately got better with later films, and this gives a clue as to his later working style.
The National Film Registry has rightly declared this film worthy of preservation as `culturally significant'. This is all in keeping with the credo of art Cassavetes long championed, as typified by this quote: `I've never seen an exploding helicopter. I've never seen anybody go and blow somebody's head off. So why should I make films about them? But I have seen people destroy themselves in the smallest way. I've seen people withdraw. I've seen people hide behind political ideas, behind dope, behind the sexual revolution, behind fascism, behind hypocrisy, and I've myself done all these things. So I can understand them. What we are saying is so gentle. It's gentleness. We have problems, terrible problems, but our problems are human problems.' That this film is `culturally significant' is true, but that truth is not synonymous with its being `artistically significant'. It is in the difference between these two definitions where great art truly thrives.