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Shadows [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1959]

Release Date:02/17/2009
The concept of independent filmmaking didn't really exist in 1957 (and underground movies were unknown to anyone beyond a tiny handful of bohemians in New York and the West Coast) when John Cassavetes gathered together some students from the acting workshop he taught with Burt Lane, commandeered a 16mm camera and began shooting a movie. Shadows was something very new and different when it opened in a handful of art houses in 1959, and while Cassavetes would make better and more accomplished films over the next thirty years, watching it today it's interesting to see that his signature style and point of view was already in place, emphasizing naturalism above all else and giving his cast free reign to tell this story of love, honesty and their failings. Shadows has never looked especially good on home video, and the Criterion Collection are to be congratulated for giving the movie what is easily its most attractive presentation to date; this DVD includes as a bonus a short documentary on the painstaking restoration that was performed on Shadows by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and the new restored print was used for this transfer. Shadows, transferred to disc in its original full-frame aspect ratio, still looks like a rough and tumble enterprise created by amateurs with more enthusiasm than skill, but with the contrast corrected, a bit of the grain smoothed out and the framing properly adjusted, the film reveals a far more careful visual style than earlier video releases would lead one to expect. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and while it has also been upgraded over previous releases, it still sounds as if it was recorded using amateur equipment (which it sometimes was), and some viewers might choose to switch on the optional English subtitles to sort out some of the dialogue. (The movie is in English, with no multiple language options.) Along with the documentary on the restoration, other bonus features on this disc include new interviews with leading lady Lelia Goldoni and actor and associate producer Seymour Cassel, a gallery of production stills, silent footage of Cassavetes and Lane acting workshop in session, the trailer for the movie's British theatrical release and a booklet with essays by Gary Giddings and Cassavetes (the latter taken from a 1961 issue of Films and Filming). Unless and until Shadows is released in the Blu-Ray format, Criterion's DVD of Shadows is the definitive presentation of this historically important and vital film, and anyone interested in Cassavetes' career should give it a look, even if they've seen the picture before.
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    Special Features

    • Video interviews with actress Lelia Goldoni and associate producer Seymour Cassel
    • Rare silent 16mm footage of John Cassavetes and Burt Lane's acting workshop
    • Restoration demonstration
    • Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
    • Theatrical trailer
    • A booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins and a 1961 article by Cassavetes


    Shadows was John Cassavetes' first directorial effort. Like his later critically acclaimed films Faces and Husbands, Cassavetes fills the screen with probing, unflattering closeups. Unlike his other films, however, Shadows zips along at 87 minutes, avoiding the pitfall of putting the director's nonfans to sleep. The film is a straightforward account of a biracial romance (a far less common film subject in 1960 than today). Light-skinned African-American Lelia Goldoni falls in love with a white man Anthony Ray, who spurns her when he meets the rest of her family. Far from subtle, Shadows benefits from the undisciplined energy of its direction and the excellence of its individual performances. Costing a scant $40,000 (less than the average half hour TV episode of the era), Shadows won the Critic's Award at the Cannes Film Festival and led to more expensive studio assignments for John Cassavetes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Image coming soon
      Lelia Goldoni - Lelia
    • Ben Carruthers
      Ben Carruthers - Ben
    • Image coming soon
      Anthony Ray - Tony
    • Image coming soon
      Hugh Hurd - Hugh
    • Rupert Crosse
      Rupert Crosse - Rupert

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.