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1521Shadows: On Film & In Book

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Oct 28, 2006
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      The independent-film
       
      masterpiece known as 

       
      SHADOWS




      Film Plot:


      Three members of a Mixed-Race family -- which
      is of the Ethnic grouping referred to today as
      'African-American' -- live together in Manhattan.

      One aspires to become a jazz musician ----
      while his two lighter-complexioned siblings
      deal with the issues involved in considering
      attempting to "pass" as being a mono-racial 'White'.

      Hugh, a struggling jazz singer, attempting
      to obtain a job and hold onto his dignity;
      Ben, a Beat drifter who goes from
      one fight and girlfriend to another;
      and Lelia, who has a romance with a
      'White' man who turns on her when he
      discovers the truth of her full ancestral
      "racial" lineage and 'ethnic' heritage .

      In a delicate, semi-comic drama of
      "self-discovery", the main characters
      are forced to "explore who they are
      and what really matters" in their lives.




      John Cassavetes' Shadows is
      an improvosational film made
      in 1959, winner an award
      at the Venice Film Festival.

      It offers a compelling snapshot
      of 'Beat culture' in NYC as it
      itnersected with "racial" tensions
      as well as the subserviant position
      of women present even in "hip"
      society during the early 60's. 


      Go to fullsize image  Go to fullsize image
      Go to fullsize image 


      An experiment in improvisational
      filmmaking, John Cassavetes' first film,
      'Shadows' is considered one of the seminal
      works of the American independent cinema
      .

      This film is included in the National Film
      Registry / 1959 (87m. B+W) / Stars Ben
      Carruthers, Lelia Goldoni, and Hugh Hurd.



      It's very rare that an independent
      film like Shadows dealt with issues
      portraying African Americans in
      a non-strerotypical storyline.


      This movie has many powerful scenes.

      The grounding of the film is very natural.

      The characters were showed
      depth in a believable manner
      .



      Go to fullsize image



      Commentary on the film is
      now available in book format

      John Cassavetes' Shadows is
      generally regarded as the start of the
      independent feature movement in America.

      Made for $40,000 with a nonprofessional cast and
      crew and borrowed equipment, the film caused
      a sensation on its London release in 1960.


      Shadows
      ends with the title card
      "The film you have just seen was an
      improvisation," and for decades was
      hailed as a masterpiece of spontaneity,
      --- but shortly before Cassavetes' death,
      he confessed to Ray Carney something
      he had never before revealed -----  
      that much of the film was scripted.

      He told him that it was shot twice and that
      the scenes in the second version were written
      both by him and Robert Alan Aurthur, a
      professional Hollywood screenwriter.

      For Carney, it was Cassavetes` Rosebud.

      He spent ten years tracking down the
      surviving members of the cast and
      crew, and piecing together "the true
      story" of the making of the film.

      Carney takes the reader behind the scenes to
      follow every step in the making of the movie –
      chronicling the hopes and dreams, the struggles
      and frustrations, and the ultimate triumph of the
      collaboration that resulted in one of the seminal
      masterworks of American independent filmmaking.

      Highlights of the presentation are more than
      30 illustrations (including the only existing
      photographs of the dramatic workshop
      Cassavetes ran in the late fifties and
      of the stage on which much of Shadows
      was shot, and a still showing a scene
      from the "lost" first version of the film);
      and statements by many of the film's
      actors and crew members detailing
      previously unknown events during its creation.

      One of the most interesting and original aspects of the
      book is a nine-page Appendix that "reconstructs" much
      of the lost first version of the film for the first time.

      * * *

      Book author,  Ray Carney, maintains a web site devoted
      to independent film at: (
      http://www.Cassavetes.com) and 
      may be reached by e-mail at:
      raycarney@....

      The book 'Shadows' (by Ray Carney) is published
      by the British Film Institute (London, England)
      and d
      istributed in the United States by the
      University of California Press at Berkeley
      ISBN: 0-85170-835-8 / 88 pages; 30 illustrations

      http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/shadows/press.shtml      
      http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/cassoverview/films/shadows.shtml