SHADOWS isn’t America’s first indie feature film, but it may be its first mature one — the first to put everything on the line for its uncompromising modern approach to style and subject matter.
As he follows the lives of three black Manhattanite siblings (with a breakout performance by Lelia Goldoni), Cassavetes gives each actor room to shape their character like a bandleader calling out solos. The filmmaker would refine this style in later pictures, but one doesn’t look to SHADOWS for refinement; it’s as raw, direct and original as the day it first hit the screen.
In his directorial debut, Cassavetes tells a risky, elliptical story about love, money, sex and blackness. Using the rough-hewn vérité style which redefined filmmaking, SHADOWS’ off-the-cuff narrative and staccato editing share an affinity with bop jazz.