Friday, March 5, 2010

Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959)

Shadows is my introduction to John Cassavetes, and perhaps my introduction to independent American cinema of this period. I was surprised by how ahead of its time it felt, its improvisations and overlapping conversations reminding me of Altman, while the brutal violence erupting from racial tensions and the glimpse of intellectual New York culture reminding me of Scorsese and Allen respectively. Sadly the DVD I viewed the film on was accompanied by horrible picture quality, which is hopefully remedied in the Criterion release. Even so, Cassavetes’ jumpy, freeform style is a wonder to behold, even in its awkward editing and unpolished sound. It’s a rough hodgepodge of beatnik culture and dingy Manhattan living, eruptive character relationships and existential angst, and it ends without any coherent finality, preferring instead to leave its characters waltzing forward to the beat of the saxophone solos.

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