John Cassavetes’ directorial debut revolves around a romance in New York City between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light-skinned black woman, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship is put in jeopardy when Tony meets Lelia’s darker-skinned jazz singer brother, Hugh (Hugh Hurd), and discovers that her racial heritage is not what he thought it was.
Shot on location in Manhattan with a mostly nonprofessional cast and crew, Shadows was the culmination of an almost three-year filmmaking process as unorthodox and full of surprises as the film itself. Cassavetes’ style — distinguished by personal expression and character study and devoid of rigid structure — was already apparent in this early work, a penetrating film that is widely considered the forerunner of the American independent film movement.
Selected for inclusion on the National Film Registry
“So far ahead of all Hollywood and independent films that once you’ve seen [it] you can no longer look at the official cinema: you know that American cinema can be more sensitive and intelligent.” — Jonas Mekas, Village Voice
“This is the only Cassavetes film made without a full script (it grew out of acting improvs), and rarely has so much warmth, delicacy, and raw feeling emerged so naturally and beautifully from performances in an American film.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
“Arguably the founding work of the American independent cinema.” — J. Hoberman, Village Voice
Venice Film Festival