Director: John Cassavetes
Screenwriters: John Cassavetes

Institute History


It's impossible to overstate the significance of John Cassavetes's Shadows, which appeared in America the same year Godard made Breathless in Paris. In Cassavetes's inventive and iconoclastic hands, both the content and form of American film underwent a radical transformation. Like his films to follow, Shadows fuses seemingly random, slice-of-life incidents and conversations with a gritty, in-your-face documentary shooting style that captures New York City's many moods and looks. The meaning of the film emerges from the interaction of a closely kit group of people trying to chart a course through the ever-shifting, anonymous, modern urban landscape.
At the center of Shadows are three black siblings: Hugh, Benny, and Lelia. Benny and Lelia have light complexions and often pass for white, but ironically this only makes their lives more complicated. When Lelia falls in love with Tony, who is white, he seduces and then rejects her, but her relationship with David, an attractive black man, is equally ambivalent. Meanwhile, Hugh is attempting to fahsion a career as a singer, and Benny aspires to become a musician, although he spends most of his time prowling the city with his white buddies.
The characters, dialogue, and most of the situations are based on improvisations created in Cassavetes's acting classes. The low-key, natural performances are dramatically offset by Lelia Goldoni, the emotional heart of the film.
The UCLA Film and Television Archive has meticulously restored the film from the original negative, which was so badly disintegrated that some sections had to be pulled from a dupe. The soundtrack has been carefully cleaned digitally to make the dialogue clearer without compromising the film's inherent street feel.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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