Maurice Mcendree

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Shadows Review


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Long before Hollywood studios sold "independent" films to the masses and digital video filled the screen with directionless angst, independent cinema had a purpose and a master -- John Cassavetes. Although Cassavetes' directorial debut Shadows captures the actor-turned-director at his most unrefined, it's also his most ambitious. Like the Charles Mingus soundtrack that pulsates throughout the film, Shadows is a cinematic improvisation (as the end credits mention) of amateur vitality.

New York City is typically the stuff of romantic ruminations, but Shadows' NYC is a clash of interests and ethical moralities -- a place where unmotivated musician Ben (Ben Carruthers) and his artistry-driven, professional singer brother Hugh (Hugh Hurd) can co-exist. The film foremost deals with race in relationships -- personal, professional, and fleeting -- following the two brothers and their sister Leila (Leila Goldoni). Hopes are dashed as Hugh's nightclub performance is cut short by a white owner and an untalented chorus line, Ben's free-wheelin' life becomes as empty as his brother implies when he's beaten up for hitting on some other cat's chicks, and Leila's first love turns out to be a racist, pseudo-intellectual.

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Faces Review


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Widely considered the first "mainstream" independent film, Faces earned three Oscar nominations and wide acclaim for a cast acting itse way through two hours of intense arguments and situations regarding infidelity and the meaninglessness of life. From John Cassavetes, who treads on these subject continually, comes this rambling and ultimately uninspired film, intentionally made to look cheap and lacking in much resolution. Seymour Cassel turns in the most interesting performance, achieved largely through screaming at the top of his lungs. Check out Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or even A Streetcar Named Desire for better renditions of some of these ideas.

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